Government / Politics / Russia / St. Petersburg / Travel

A New START: Will Political Games Stand in the way of Progress?


1 December 2010

Hoping to ratify the treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress, President Obama and Senator John Kerry have been persistent in speaking-out on the vitality of the new agreement to national security.

President Medvedev, in his annual state of the nation address to The Federal Assembly on Tuesday, also stressed the importance of the pact while threatening actions Russia must take if it fails to be ratified in the United States.

President Medvedev suggested the evolution of a new arms race if the U.S. and NATO talks on cooperation failed to be fruitful.

Premier Putin, also added in his recent interview on Larry King Live, that without the treaty Russia will need to ensure its own security by deploying “new strike forces,” according to an excerpt on the CNN website, if it is barred from the new European missile defense shield.

Russia seems to be increasing pressure on the United States Senate to look past its petty partisan issues while highlighting the overarching goals of the treaty: increased foreign diplomacy and cooperation, which seem to have been lost in the fog of hyperbole statements and misguided analysis.

The Republican Senate has been advocating against the New START treaty since its inception. The Heritage Foundation even outlines the specific problems in a bombastic fashion, stating the agreement “is a bad deal for U.S. Security” and a “great deal for Russia.”

In contrast to what many report, The New START treaty does little to actually decrease nuclear arms for either the United States or Russia. The treaty defines a warhead differently than the previous treaties, noting that, “One nuclear warhead shall be counted for each deployed heavy bomber.” Limiting the amount of nuclear warheads on heavy bombers to 1550, the treaty allows multiple warheads to be present on each heavy bomber and be counted as ‘one’. This reveals a disconnect in the amount of deployed heavy bombers and the amount of nuclear warheads, decreasing the former and not necessarily the latter.

Many experts call for a more dramatic decrease in nuclear arms, and this is only a small step in contrast to the needs and capabilities of each country. These decreases in arms could ultimately result in a decrease in funding needed to maintain them, which could be reallocated to the modernization of the nuclear facilities and research or included as a decrease in the defense budget.

It seems there can be many advantages to appeasing Russia at this time, while also decreasing the nuclear arsenal and promoting more peaceful diplomacy.  It is also a bit hypocritical of the United States to constantly insist that other countries not acquire nuclear power or decrease it, while failing to do so herself.

Why do the Republicans continue to block the treaty?

Though Republicans have recently shown a bit more promise in passing the treaty, there are still some major roadblocks through which to navigate.  Senator Jon Kyl has been promoting an increase in the defense budget for nuclear projects, ultimately to undermine the decrease in nuclear arms.

Earlier today, Senate Republicans have presented a formal letter promising to block any legislation, before the extension of the Bush era tax-cuts, according to The New York Times.

I can only hope that both sides will see how exaggerated they have become and realize the efforts are in benign interest. We can only hope to ease tensions with Russia and the surrounding states by appeasing here and there in conjunction with achieving our own aims.

Compromise has traditionally been a strategic art of foreign diplomacy, if only we could say the same of American politics.

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