For decades, one of the central foreign policy goals of the U.S. has been the reduction of American and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals. President Ronald Reagan began working toward this goal in earnest during his time in office, and the progress he made was built upon by George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Accordingly, President Barack Obama made it one of his highest priorities to continue the work of his predecessors. In April, he negotiated a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. If finalized, the treaty would require both countries to reduce their nuclear stockpiles by 30 percent and would provide for precise and comprehensive monitoring of Russia’s stockpile by U.S. inspectors.
Should the U.S. military have intelligence of the number of Russian nukes, it would enable the country to adjust its own nuke deployments to match, and would save money in the process.
Any agreement that would provide transparency and prevent misunderstandings between two countries with thousands of nuclear weapons is beneficial to all involved.
Nonetheless, the treaty is still waiting to be ratified. Ratification requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, but Republicans present serious opposition and may cause its undoing.
Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona is the most important vote on the treaty, as he is the lead Republican negotiator on the issue. When newly elected senators take office next year, Obama will need 14 Republican votes to ratify, but most conservatives will likely follow Kyl’s lead.
For that reason, the president has made serious concessions in hopes of persuading Kyl. Indeed, the White House committed to spend $84 billion over the next 10 years to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
This excess of spending on nuclear programs is startling considering most federal budgets are shrinking or keeping steady rather than growing. The spending alone undermines the appearance that the U.S. is committed to reducing nuclear weapons and the treaty Obama is trying so fervently to pass.
Even after that incredible concession, Kyl refuses to even support a vote on the treaty this year. Still, Obama is rightly pushing forward.
If the Republicans vote against the treaty, they expose themselves as completely uninterested in the well-being of America. They would also place themselves in opposition to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, who support the treaty, according to the Huffington Post.
While they claim to support cutting the deficit, Republicans refuse to reduce nuclear stockpiles, which require huge sums of money to maintain. Most startlingly, they would refuse to lower the number of incredibly deadly nuclear weapons aimed at our country.
The only reason to oppose START is to deprive Obama of an accomplishment, and that is something the Republican Party values over all things.
Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.