New START Stalling in Congress?

The next two weeks are critical for the chances of New START's ratification


New START Stalling in Congress?

It has been over 335 days since the US has been able to inspect Russia’s nuclear weapons. While the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) would allow inspections to begin again -and passed 14-4 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee- a vote to ratify it is still up in the air.

“Veterans with the Truman National Security Project stand with our military and security leaders in urging the U.S. Senate to ratify the New START treaty,” said Jonathan Powers, Iraq War veteran and Truman Project COO. “This treaty, which would reestablish the tough system for U.S. oversight of Russian nuclear weapons first proposed by President Reagan, is imperative to our national security. Every day that we wait to ratify this treaty is another day that we leave Russia’s nuclear arsenal vulnerable to terrorist access. The Senate must move quickly to ratify the New START treaty so that the United States can once again stand strong against nuclear terrorism and guard against those who are trying to arm dangerous enemy regimes like Iran and North Korea.”

New START has overwhelming support of the military leaders and national security experts of both parties. Among those who have come out in support of the treaty are Colin Powell, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, James Schlesinger and Henry Kissinger. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in July that New START has the full support of the military. And yet, senior Republicans such as Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona continue to delay the vote. They claim the need for more funding to modernize the US nuclear weapons complex even though the president has already promised to spend more per year on nuclear weapons than the previous administration.

Meanwhile, the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee has reconsidered its recommendation to ratify New START in light of the results of the November 2nd elections in the US. The Russian Duma’s foreign affairs committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev expressed concern over whether ratification is possible in the new Senate.

A vote on New START is critical before the next Congress. Otherwise the new Senate will send the treaty back to committee, and new committee members may ask for more hearings. This amounts to a longer delay in ratifying the treaty, causing the lapse in Russian nuclear weapons inspections to span well over a year.

How likely is a vote on New START before the new session of Congress? How much do opponents believe is needed to properly modernize the US’s nuclear complex? What happens to relations with Russia if there is no vote on New START? Is there an alternative to New START should it fail in the Senate?