Almost non-stop since the midterm elections, President Barack Obama has called on the Senate to approve a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia and he continued to do so in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
In his address the president cited President Ronald Reagan – a Republican favorite – and his negotiations with the former Soviet Union in reducing both countries’ nuclear arms stockpiles as another reason why the New START Treaty should be ratified.
“To ensure that our national security is protected, the United States has an interest in tracking Russia’s nuclear arsenal through a verification effort that puts U.S. inspectors on the ground,” he said in his radio address. “As President Reagan said when he signed a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union in 1987, ‘Trust, but verify.’”
The president has been urging the Senate to ratify the START Treaty during the lame-duck session saying its passage was crucial to the country’s national security. While a few Republicans have voiced their support for the treaty’s ratification, most have been reluctant to support the measure including a key Republican lawmaker, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona. Throughout the week, President Obama has stood with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, military officials – including current and former generals – and current and former Cabinet secretaries to make the case on why ratifying the treaty was necessary. He also received key support for the treaty with Russia on Saturday from European allies at a NATO summit in Portugal.
With such broad and vocal support from various countries, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, military officials and other people familiar with foreign affairs, there has been a lack of understanding on why some Republican lawmakers are against its ratification – especially when in the past a treaty such as this has been met with wide bipartisan support.
The Senate needs 67 votes to ratify the treaty but Kyl has objected to bringing it to the floor during the lame-duck session mainly because of concerns U.S. nuclear arms need to be modernized. In his weekly address President Obama acknowledged the senator’s concerns and said his administration has committed at least $85 billion over the next 10 years to modernize the infrastructure. He said, though, that Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together and support the arms treaty and failing to do so could put America’s national security at risk.
“The choice is clear: a failure to ratify New START would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security, setting back our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons, as well as our leadership in the world,” President Obama said. “That is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do.”
If ratified the New START Treaty would, among its various objectives, reduce both the United States and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles of long-range, deployed weapons by as much as 30 percent, leaving each country with roughly 1,550 warheads. It would reduce launch vehicles such as missile silos and submarine tubes by more than 50 percent, to 800 each. The New START Treaty also would continue and improve a verification regime that allows U.S. inspectors and intelligence officials to monitor Russian nuclear forces.
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