The Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) is back with another report on New START. Recall that the last time the Committee released a report on arms control (in September 2009), it cited the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States 25 times to raise doubts about the New START negotiations, yet omitted the single most important statement the Commission made re: the impending expiration of START I:
“The moment appears ripe for a renewal of arms control with Russia, and this bodes well for a continued reduction in the nuclear arsenal. The United States and Russia should pursue a step-by-step approach and take a modest first step to ensure that there is a successor to START I when it expires at the end of 2009. Beyond a modest incremental reduction in operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons, the arms control process becomes much more complex as new factors are introduced.” [emphasis mine.]
The main thrust of the new report seems to be that the Senate should evaluate the new agreement carefully and thoroughly. The RPC would be hard pressed to find supporters of the treaty who actually disagree with this position.
In general, the new report seems to lack the same vehemence that characterized the last one. For example, the best the Committee could come up with on verification is that before the treaty annexes were complete, “the Administration was already proclaiming that New START has an “effective verification regime.” And on the tactical nuclear weapons, the report states: “In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the Treaty of Moscow in 2002, Chairman Biden lamented that it did not address tactical nuclear weapons. Of course, Sen. Biden voted for SORT, as did 94 other Senators.
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I think this bodes well for the treaty’s prospects, even if a tough fight on conditions, understandings, and declarations on the treaty is on the horizon. All (or nearly all) the information the Committee asks for will be (or already has been) provided and all the questions it raises on specific issues have answers that have been provided and will continue to be provided by the Obama administration and the many moderates and conservatives who have already come out in support of the treaty.