Today the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) released a policy paper titled “START: Do Time Extension Instead of a Bad Treaty.”
According to the paper, the Senate is unlikely more likely to ratify a START follow-on treaty unless if it includes at least six conditions and restrictions, including a requirement that the follow-on deal with Russian tactical nuclear weapons, that would essentially make it impossible to complete an agreement by the time START I expires on December 5. Naturally, these limitations fit quite comfortably with the RPC’s preferred outcome, which is that START should simply be extended more or less indefinitely without any further reductions in the U.S. arsenal.
Where to start (and end, since it’s getting late in the day). By my count, the paper cites the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States 25 times. Of course, it omits the one Commission statement that is most relevant:
“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].
As I’ve argued on countless occasions in this space, the Commission makes a clear distinction between a modest first step (as embodied by the Joint Understanding signed in Moscow) and the challenges associated with deeper reductions (such as the asymmetry in U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons). At no point does the Commission hinge taking a modest first step on a completed NPR (which the RPC begrudgingly concedes has already progressed far enough to account for the limits contained in the Joint Understanding in any event), modernizing the complex, or dealing with tactical nuclear weapons.
Then again, it shouldn’t be surprising that the RPC is purposefully misconstruing the Commission’s findings and recommendations, since two of the Commission’s conservative members, including the vice-chairman, have also conveniently chosen to forget the consensus* they agreed to in the final report (see here)
*Jeffrey’s point about this “consensus” being ephemeral notwithstanding, I still think it should count for something.