The lame duck rush to ratify the New START Treaty is becoming an example of fools rushing in.
One of the sticking points for Republicans opposed to the Treaty (13 Republicans voted in favor of the Treaty) was that the Preamble language seemed to link missile reduction to limits on U.S. missile defense. This connection of offensive and defensive weapons was the public position of the Russians, yet the Obama administration gave repeated assurances that such was not the case.
Rather than waiting for an official clarification from the Russians, and a binding understanding, the fools rushed in and ratified the Treaty because otherwise, in Harry Reid’s words, we would be letting terrorists have nukes.
The lower DUMA of the Russian parliament, however, continues to insist on what always has been the Russian position that the Treaty limits U.S. missile defenses. As reported by ABC News:
An official of the lower house of the Duma says that as it ratifies the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START, the Russian parliament will reaffirm that the treaty limits U.S. plans for missile defense, contrary to the stated position of U.S. officials.
Asked for comment, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor tells ABC News, “The President sent a letter to the Senate on December 18th that said: ‘The New Start Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs.’ That remains the case.”
Read the full ABC report. It details the history and consistency of the Russian insistence that the Preamble language has meaning. Ed Morrissey at HotAir details how this is setting up a potential failure of the Treaty.
This is more than an embarrassment. The process by which the New START Treaty was rushed through Congress in the run up to the Christmas recess epitomizes not only the methodology of the Obama administration, in which false crises are created to achieve legislative victories, but also how numerous weak-kneed Republicans went along with this charade.
If the New START Treaty were so vital to our national security, then we should have had binding commitments from the Russians making clear that their interpretation of the Preamble was consistent with our interpretation. Instead, we have a mess in which the parties to the Treaty do not have a meeting of the minds on the meaning of the language.
Putin wants the Treaty passed, so it remains to be seen if the Russian DUMA actually amends the Treaty or issues its own understanding. Regardless, the fact that the U.S. and Russia do not agree on the meaning of the Preamble is a prescription not for an effective Treaty, but for future conflict.