This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Republican senators are playing a dangerous game.
Led by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, they are holding the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty hostage, in effect trying to kill it. Though Kyl claims there isn't time in a lame-duck session to consider it, he is transparently trying to block the treaty to make President Obama seem ineffective and weaken him for 2012.
This is in tune with Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, who says the top priority for the GOP Congress should be to make Obama a one-term president. Utah Senator-elect Mike Lee is among the 10 incoming GOP senators demanding no vote this year because with more seats next year, Republicans can more easily block the treaty entirely.
But this partisan political win could come at a very great cost to all of us.
The treaty would cut U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear arms by about 10 percent. And it would revive the decades-long system that until last year let both sides inspect each other's nuclear arms and facilities.
Richard Burt, who negotiated the START-1 treaty in 1991 with the then-USSR, told PBS's "Newshour" on Nov. 17 that without a treaty not only do we lose the ability to keep tabs on Russia's nuclear arsenal, we miss the chance to improve relations with the Russians and we lose all credibility with the rest of the world on stopping nuclear proliferation.
"Only two governments in the world," he said, "wouldn't like to see this treaty ratified: the government in Tehran and the government in North Korea."
U.S. military leaders call this treaty vital.
"I believe and the rest of the military leadership in this country believes," said Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "that this treaty is essential to our future security. I believe it enhances and ensures that security. And I hope the Senate will ratify it quickly."
Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said without a treaty, "we have no insight into what [the Russians] are doing."
Former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, James Baker, George Schultz and Henry Kissinger all support the treaty, as does Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to two Republican presidents.
Last July, Kyl said most senators would consider New START "relatively benign," as long as Obama agreed to modernize our nuclear weaponry. In May, Obama announced we will spend $80 billion to upgrade weapons labs and replace or modify aging nuclear missiles. When Kyl insisted on $2.4 billion more, Obama agreed to add $4.1 billion.
But Kyl and Lee want to obstruct the treaty anyway even after 18 hearings and four classified briefings in the Senate. Weakening our ties with Russia makes it harder to put pressure on Iran and North Korea. Weakening our ability to check on Russia's arsenal makes it harder to control nuclear proliferation. We haven't been able to inspect Russia's arsenal since last December. Intelligence officials say we may have to move spy satellites now supporting our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, weakening us on those fronts too.
Tradition in Congress once held that partisan politics stopped at the water's edge. There was a very good reason for that. If Kyl, Lee and their colleagues want to damage Obama politically, they should pick an issue that won't do so by making the world less safe for all of us.
Bob Ortega is a writer and media consultant. His work with independent news media has taken him to Russia and eight former Soviet republics. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter.