Nuclear disarmament set to start

The two countries that account for more than 95 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons are in the midst of signing a nuclear arms treaty.

However, some United States Republican lawmakers prove skeptical of the agreement and are hesitant to pass the legislation.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (the START program) would leave Russia and the US with 1, 550 warheads each— a reduction of nearly 30 per cent.

In addition, the treaty would allow for regular inspections of each other’s stockpiles.

These visits were allowed under the first START program, but it expired last year.
The Globe and Mail reported on Nov. 18 that U.S. President Barack Obama called the treaty “a national security imperative” last week.

Furthermore, he told the American people, “This is not a Democratic concept. This is not a Republican concept … This is a concept of American national security that has been promoted by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now my administration. We’ve taken the time to do this right.”

Patrick Dennis, professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, asserts unequivocally that the treaty is crucial to American national security, as well as to U.S.-Russia relations.

However, Dennis expressed, “The treaty has clearly become a political football of sorts during this post-election ‘lame duck’ session of Congress.”

Similarly, Barry Kay, a professor of American politics at Laurier, suggested that despite the importance of this legislation, there is a partisanship element to this debate.

“Those opposed to Obama are trying to fight [the treaty] because they think that any Obama “accomplishment” helps him and hurts them, regardless of its merit,” stated Kay.

Without regular inspections, the national governments are left to speculate each other’s capabilities which may result in further increases to existing stockpiles.
Dennis demonstrated concern over the expiration of the first START program, in that “an inspections regime is a vital component of this treaty… but for almost a year now there have been no inspections whatsoever, and it appears that this will be the case for some time to come.”

The treaty still needs to pass in the Senate, where Republican senators have been vocal about their disagreement with the legislation.

Some Republicans view this approach to national security as dated because it infers that Russia and the U.S. need to keep an equal amount of weapons in order to maintain the threat of mutually assured destruction.

Also, conservative lawmakers feel that the treaty would constrain the development of American anti-missile defenses.

Many are skeptical of whether Russia will honour the pact.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona has been outspoken against the treaty and urges that more time is needed to develop an effective nuclear arms treaty with Russia and that this shouldn’t be rushed.

Obama is lobbying Capitol Hill intensely for ratification of this piece of legislation and remains confident that he, like every president since Ronald Reagan, will get the treaty passed.

Ratification requires 67 votes out of the 100 senators on the issue.