Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama Pushes START Treaty to Top of Legislative Agenda

With time running out before he faces a much more hostile and Republican Congress, President Obama seems to have made ratification of the new START Treaty with Russia his top legislative priority, despite considerable push back from hardline neoconservatives and far-right Republicans.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

With time running out before he faces a much more hostile and Republican Congress, President Barack Obama appears to have made Senate ratification of the pending New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia his top legislative priority.

Not only has he bowed to Republican demands to allocate more money for Washington's nuclear arms programme, but he has suggested that he's also willing to cave in to Republican demands to extend tax cuts for high-income households – despite record federal deficits – in order to gain START ratification.

And he's getting considerable help from big guns in what remains of the Republican foreign policy Establishment, including five former secretaries of state whose service spanned the last five Republican administrations.

In an op-ed heralded by the White House on the eve of its publication in Thursday's Washington Post, former secretaries Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell concluded that the New START was "clearly in our national interest" and should be ratified.

The five men who, respectively, served under Presidents Nixon and Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, argued that their former bosses "recognised that reducing the number of nuclear arms in an open, verifiable manner would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe and increase the stability of America's relationship with the Soviet Union and, later, the Russian Federation."

Nonetheless, the treaty's fate remains uncertain. Hard-line neo-conservatives and far-right Republicans, whose ranks will be swollen in the Congress that will be sworn into office one month from now, remain adamantly opposed to START, which requires, among other things, a reduction in the nuclear arsenals of both countries of deployed, long-range missiles from 2,200 to 1,550.

It will also permit the resumption of mutual inspections by both parties. They were halted last year when the previous START Treaty, which was signed by the senior Bush in 1991 and ratified shortly thereafter, expired.

The treaty's foes object most strongly to what they claim are inadequate verification provisions and implicit limitations on Washington's ability to develop and deploy missile defences against possible strikes by Iran, North Korea, or other foes, including Russia itself.

"President Reagan knew that in arms control, the U.S. should play to win, and negotiate from a position of strength," wrote Ed Meese of the far-right Heritage Foundation and Richard Perle of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in an op-ed also published last Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.

Meese served as attorney-general and political adviser to Ronald Reagan, while Perle worked in the same administration as an assistant secretary of defence with some responsibility for arms control negotiations.

"With all the concessions the U.S. made to the Russians to secure this flawed agreement," they argued, the invocation of Reagan's memory both by Obama and the Republican luminaries who have called for ratification was "a brazen act of misappropriation".

Under the U.S. constitution, ratification of a treaty requires two-thirds of the Senate – or 67 of 100 senators – to vote in favour. In the current Senate, Democrats hold 58 seats, so Obama needs only nine Republicans to prevail.

So far, however, only Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has come out in strong support of the treaty, although at least half a dozen others have hinted they are prepared to back it, too, under the right circumstances.

When the new Congress is seated, however, the Democratic majority will be substantially reduced, and Obama will have to persuade at least an additional six Republicans to cross the aisle to gain ratification. While most analysts believe that ratification will still be possible, the president will have to spend much more political capital to prevail.

Because of the evident importance he accords to his nuclear agenda, Obama has already spent quite a lot.

In negotiations with the chief Republican interlocutor on the accord, Sen. John Kyl, last month, the White House agreed to add 4.1 billion dollars to 80 billion for a proposed five-year nuclear arms modernisation programme, a key demand of the arms control sceptics.

The administration was stunned when Kyl and other Republicans announced last month that he still had questions about the modernisation programme and missile defence and that there wasn't enough time left in the year to take up the treaty.

In a letter released Wednesday, the directors of the country's three national nuclear laboratories wrote to Lugar and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry that they were "very pleased" with the plans which, they went on, would "provide adequate support to sustain the safety, security, reliability and effectiveness of America's nuclear deterrent within the limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads established by the New START Treaty with adequate confidence and acceptable risk."

While the treaty's supporters insisted that the scientists' assurances should be adequate to gather sufficient support for ratification now, it appears that Obama is willing to pay much more to secure ratification.

Indeed, Republicans, whose top priority at the moment is securing extensions of the sweeping Bush-era tax cuts on the country's wealthiest citizens, appear now to be holding out for Obama's concessions on that front before committing themselves to a vote on New START. The tax cuts, which were enacted shortly after the 9/11 attacks, are due to expire at the end of the month.

Obama, who had promised during the 2008 election campaign not to raise taxes on households earning 250,000 dollars a year or less, had hoped that allowing the cuts to expire on those earning more than that would help cut the federal deficit by several hundred billion dollars over the next few years.

His apparent willingness to compromise on this issue in order to secure START is causing growing dismay among his supporters.

"(Y)es, the Senate should ratify the New START treaty with Russia before the end of the year," wrote E.J. Dionne in his weekly Washington Post column Thursday, "though what does it say about us as a country when the president has to offer a tax-cut payoff to get a key foreign policy initiative through."

As Obama has suggested flexibility on the tax-cut issue, however, a growing number of Senate Republicans, including Kyl, have suggested that there may yet be time to ratify START before the Congress adjourns.

Indeed, a sufficient number of Republicans have indicated their support that Congressional aides were confidently predicting Thursday that the treaty will be brought up before the Senate as early as late next week, once the tax issue is resolved.

"It's a two-step process," Lugar said Wednesday. "We do taxes and then we do START."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share