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How to Pass a Nuclear Treaty

Kurt Volker, a former US Ambassador to NATO, has a piece in Christian Science Monitor recommending that Congress wait until later in order to ratify the replacement START treaty with Russia.  Volker picks apart the arguments for immediate ratification, starting with the proposal that “reset has produced significant results.”

The examples cited in favor of this position – the New START Treaty itself, military transits to Afghanistan, and support for a UN sanctions resolution on Iran – are areas where progress was already made under the Bush administration, before any “reset,” and where Russia itself has argued that it is acting purely in its own interest, not in response to any US overtures. (…)

Second, the argument that failure to ratify would endanger the reset policy is essentially an argument that Russia is blackmailing the United States: that it is poised to resume destructive behavior unless the US does what it wishes and ratifies the treaty. I doubt that this is true, but regardless of merit, it is certainly no argument to make to a United States senator.

Third, and most importantly as a matter of principle, the United States should not enter into treaties in order to encourage good behavior, or dis-incentivize bad behavior. Treaties are solemn legal commitments entered into by two sides when they have judged that doing so serves their core national interests – nothing more, nothing less.

It’s a sensible argument, and the very first one that I have seen that wasn’t simply up or down right now.  However this may all be irrelevant now that Jon Kyl has been flipped.  I’d hate to be in the shoes of any Republican that was formerly backing this treaty.