U.S.-Russia relations have reached a tight spot on several central issues: discord over plans for European missile defense, disappointment with Russia's flawed elections, disagreement on how to end the regime crackdown in Syria and pressure Iran on its nuclear program. Led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the administration has taken strong stances on the elections and missile defense, while continuing partnership in other vital areas, including U.S. overflight rights to Afghanistan and New START treaty implementation. The ability to "walk and chew gum at the same time" - to stand strong on issues of principle, maintain communication and make pragmatic progress elsewhere - shows the success of the "reset" policy. In fact, the reset's critics are now getting what they said they wanted on missile defense and human rights - while in Afghanistan our military gets what it needs.
The National Security Network welcomes the Senate's decision to pass the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Today's vote was the culmination of months of bipartisan effort, with senior national security, military and religious leaders, to chart an effective course for American national security. The treaty's passage exemplifies a move away from Cold War thinking and toward more effective action to combat 21st-century threats. It is a strong signal to our friends and foes around the world, creating momentum for global action to combat real, present threats to American security, including Iran, North Korea and nuclear terrorism. It affirms strong and decisive American leadership on those issues, whereas delay or defeat would have sent a signal that America was unprepared to lead.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a motion on Sunday night that paves the way for a cloture vote on New START on Tuesday. Senators are now entering their sixth day of debate on the treaty. Critics have proposed 42 amendments - seven times the norm - many of which propose amending the text of the treaty, a step which the Senate has never taken on an arms control treaty and which it would not accept from its Russian counterpart. New START has been thoroughly vetted and now debated for as long as START I and longer than START II and the Moscow Treaty combined. It is time for senators to do what is right for America's national security and ratify this treaty.
As the Senate enters its third day of debate on New START, top military and national security officials continued to call for its prompt ratification. Even as Republican leadership aides agree that it is "very likely" the treaty will be ratified, a fringe group of conservatives has opted to take on our national security establishment over the treaty. But procedural delays have replaced substantive debates, and the most trenchant opposition comes from figures who have not been involved in the debate - a slew of undeclared 2012 presidential candidates. As the Senate waits to debate any substantive amendments to the treaty, a larger trend is unfolding as conservatives struggle to define their national security platform against solid expert agreement on the way forward.
The New START accord comes to the floor later today with Senate leadership affirming that it has the 67 votes required, and more days for debate than past treaties have required. The treaty enjoys the unanimous backing of the United States military leadership and overwhelming bipartisan support. It has now been over a year since we've had U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia to inspect its nuclear facilities. New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses; it is accompanied by unprecedented long-term funding to ensure our nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure and effective; and it will reinstate a stringent verification regime that our military planners say is essential. What is debated on the Senate floor will be less about the treaty itself and more about two visions of our national security: the tested, pragmatic views of our national security leaders versus the views of a small ideological fringe.
With today's endorsement from Condoleezza Rice, every living former secretary of state now supports New START. Last week, the secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents laid out the case for ratification, with Colin Powell unequivocally stating, "I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible." With the unanimous backing of the United States military leadership and overwhelming bipartisan support, now is the time to ratify New START. This past weekend marked the one-year point of the expiration of the original START accord - meaning it has now been 367 days since we've had U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia to inspect its nuclear facilities. New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses; it is accompanied by unprecedented long-term funding to ensure our nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure and effective; and it will reinstate a stringent verification regime that our military planners say is essential. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, has urged the Senate to support America's 27 NATO allies and ratify New START. The world is waiting; it is time for the Senate to act.
With just over a month until the mid-term elections, partisanship has flatlined Congress, forcing Members to pass a stopgap spending measure to keep our government running. With a significant number of legislative priorities requiring attention during the lame duck session, one of the most urgent items Congress should take up is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). New START is not only a priority for our national security, but it also enjoys broad, bipartisan support - a rarity in today's partisan climate. The Senate has a history of approving strategic arms control agreements on a strong, bipartisan basis. In fact, 18 years ago tomorrow, the Senate passed the original START agreement on a 93-6 vote. The New START accord is squarely in line with its predecessor, giving today's conservatives a chance to continue the legacy of Ronald Reagan by reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. There is bipartisan momentum to approve this treaty, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently voting 14-4 in favor of New START. However, a small minority of extreme conservatives, led by figures such as Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), could stand in the way, forcing Senators to make a choice: make America safer or side with the fringe.