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A Tale of Two Treaties

Author: Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies
December 8, 2010
USA Today


A U.S. president goes overseas and signs a controversial nuclear agreement. Now, he must get the deal approved by the Senate. While the attitude of his political opponents ranges from skeptical to hostile, these detractors also know that killing the deal would undercut U.S. influence in the world.

This is the dilemma that many Republicans face as they consider the New START treaty, an arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia that President Obama signed this year.But it also is the dilemma Democrats faced four years ago with the far more controversial U.S.-India nuclear deal, which granted India access to nuclear technology despite its refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Back then, Democrats held their noses and voted with the president, a Republican. Those Republicans who are threatening to kill the New START agreement should do the same now.

New START is a modest treaty, which commits the U.S. and Russia to small reductions in their nuclear arsenals while creating a system for verifying those cuts. Senate Republicans, led by Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and backed by think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and some former U.S. officials, have complained that the treaty would constrain U.S. missile defenses, but there is no language in it that would do so.

They also worry that the agreement would make it harder for the U.S. to deploy conventional weapons on long-range missiles, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with a host of retired military leaders, have said that the agreement would strengthen U.S. security. Some have expressed concern that the deal might upset allies in Eastern Europe, but those allies have spoken out in its favor.

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