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Old 11-05-2010, 05:13 PM   #1
Ought Six
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Arrow Obama, Clinton, Gates Pushing for ‘Lame-Duck’ Ratification of New Arms-Reduction Treaty



The Obama administration is stepping up the pressure on the U.S. Senate to vote to ratify the new arms-reduction treaty with Russia. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday all called for action during the looming “lame-duck” session.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry wants to have the Senate debate and vote on the treaty before the 112th Congress begins in January.

Reaching the 67 votes needed to endorse the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will be more difficult in the new Senate, in which the Republican Party will control at least six more seats.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Obama did not broach the potential difficulties if New START ratification is delayed until next year, stressing instead the need for bipartisanship now.

Noting the support of prominent Republicans like George Schultz – who as secretary of state during the 1980s helped negotiate the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union – Obama said, “This is not a traditionally Democratic or Republican issue but rather a issue of American national security.”

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Gates joined Obama and Clinton in urging the Senate to approve the treaty during the lame-duck session, but denied that the appeal was being made “because of some political calculus that it may stand a better chance of passage during that time.”

“I think we’re advancing it at this time and pushing for ratification because we need this and we need it sooner than later,” he added.

The treaty to be replaced by New START, the 1991 START I, expired last December, and U.S. on-site monitoring of Russian strategic forces has been suspended since then.

“We’ve been almost a year now without the START treaty and its verification provisions,” Morrell said, underlinng a concern regularly cited by arms control proponents.

Adminstration critics have challenged the argument that the suspension of verification since START I lapsed has made hurried ratification urgent.

Two senior arms control officials during the Bush administration, John Bolton and Paula DeSutter, wrote in an op-ed last month that the “verification gap” was Obama’s own doing.

They said the Obama adminstration had chosen not to seek a five-year extension of START I, which was possible under the terms of that agreement; had failed to achieve its own deadline for finalizing a new treaty; and having done so, had failed to negotiate a bridging agreement that would ensure verification continued between the old treaty’s expiration and the new one’s entry into force.

‘We have the votes’

New START has been a major foreign policy priority for Obama. The agreement, which he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in Prague last April, requires the two countries to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear arsenals by 30 percent below the current limits.

Clinton’s contribution to Thursday’s concerted push for its ratification came during a visit to New Zealand, where she told reporters, “We believe we have enough votes to pass it in the Senate. It’s just a question of when it will be brought to the vote.”

“It certainly would be my preference that it be brought in any lame-duck session in the next several weeks and that is what I am working toward seeing happen,” she added.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington that Clinton over the coming days would reach out to lawmakers and “stress the importance of ratification of the new START Treaty during the upcoming lame-duck session.”

The one lawmaker Crowley mentioned by name in this regard was Senator-elect Mark Kirk, the Republican who won a special election in Illinois and will be seated during the lame-duck session rather than only in January.

Kirk’s victory in taking the seat once held by Obama increases by one the number of Republicans the Democrats will need to win over to reach the 67 votes needed.

Three Republicans in the Foreign Relations Committee – Sens. Richard Lugar (Ind.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.) – voted with the Democrats when the committee approved the treaty last September.

Conservative leaders in a recent memo opposed plans for a lame-duck vote, saying that “the rush to ratification undermines the important role of ‘advice and consent’ that the Senate must exercise on any treaty of this magnitude.”

Russian lawmakers draw back

In her comments in Wellington, Clinton said that both the U.S. and Russia were committed to ratifying New START.

In Moscow, however, the State Duma foreign affairs committee said this week it was placing on hold its recommendation to ratify the agreement, citing concerns about how the result of the U.S. election would impact the likelihood of passage in Washington.

Russia Today, a pro-Kremlin television network, reported that theRussian legislators also opposed some “amendments” built into the resolution of ratification by the Foreign Relations Committee, specifically those relating to missile defense.

One major concern critics have is that treaty may limit U.S. missile defense capabilities – which, despite White House assurances to the contrary, is how Moscow appears to be interpreting it.

The draft that was approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee in September included, at Lugar’s behest, the understanding that the treaty “does not impose any limitations on the deployment of missile defenses” (apart from some explicit provisions in the treaty, such as one prohibiting the placement of missile defense interceptors in ICBM launchers.)

The Russia Today report cited the missile defense issue, and quoted Konstantin Kosachev, head of the State Duma foreign affairs committee, as saying the contents of the agreement being considered by the two sides needs to match.

“The presidents of Russia and of the U.S. have set the task of synchronizing all procedures concerning the new START treaty,” he said. “Nevertheless, now we have to speak not only about synchronizing efforts to keep up with the deadlines, but of synchronizing the contents as well.”

New START has been a major foreign policy priority for Obama. The agreement, which he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in Prague last April, requires the two countries to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear arsenals by 30 percent below the current limits.
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Old 11-06-2010, 01:36 AM   #2
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it's not only about US-elections but also possible
changes in Russia.
We should push the treaties as long as they are available,
waiting too long is risky.

BTW. I remember Russia recently attending the NATO-talks
in Portugal, considering to join a common missile-shield development.
Mainly targeted against Iran.
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