A few weeks ago I noted that it was ironic that Senator Jon Kyl has been accusing the Obama administration of being weak on verification in its pursuit of a New START agreement considering his past lackadaisical approach to this topic. Apparently the Senator’s inconsistency knows no bounds.
In a November 21 speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Kyl warned of the consequences of allowing START I to expire on December 5. “The U.S. will lose a significant source of information that has allowed it to have confidence in its ability to understand Russian strategic nuclear forces,” he proclaimed.
Arms control advocates have been raising concerns about the impending disappearance of START I’s verification, monitoring, and inspection provisions for years. The same cannot be said of Sen. Kyl, whose sudden admiration for START I’s verification scheme contrasts sharply with his position on the Bush administration’s 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which contained no such verification procedures. In praising SORT on the Senate floor in April 2003, Sen. Kyl stated:
This treaty is a masterstroke. It represents, and, I am sure, will be sent as ushering in a wholly new approach to arms control for a wholly new era. The simplicity of this treaty is a marvel. It is extremely brief, indeed just three pages long. It is shorn of the tortured benchmarks, sublimits, arcane definitions and monitoring provisions that weighed down past arms control treaties.
In addition, Sen. Kyl was one of 50 mostly Republican Senators to vote against an amendment proposed by Sen. Kerry to add verification requirements to SORT.
So he was against verification before he was for it?
What’s the cause of his new-found verification religion? Has it something to do with a Democrat being in the White House?
Kyl’s November 21 floor speech also tries to blame the Obama administration for Russia’s plans to deploy the road-mobile RS-24 missile, a new, multiple-warhead version of the single warhead SS-27.
Yet the Bush administration did not make an issue out of Russia’s development of the RS-24. This was in keeping with the conclusions of the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, which declared that it was no longer appropriate to size and configure U.S. nuclear forces in relation to the Russian arsenal.
As Amb. Linton Brooks, a former Republican official and negotiator of the START I agreement, noted at an October 26 event on START at the United States Institute of Peace: “The fact that the Secretary of Defense in the last administration said both publically and privately that we didn’t care [about the RS-24] may have suggested to them [the Russians] that it was ok….We had a long time…to call them on that and we as a government chose not to.”
Sen. Kyl claims that the Obama administration has given next to no consideration of how to bridge the gap between the expiration of START I and entry into force of New START. This is simply not true. As numerous Obama administration officials have noted, the two sides have been negotiating a bridging agreement in parallel to the new Treaty to cover the gap. The Administration has not, however, divulged the details of a bridge agreement that is still being negotiated.
Sen. Kyl ends his speech by noting that “the U.S. would have been very well served with a simple 5 year extension of the 1991 Agreement, as the treaty allowed.” Earlier versions of Senator Kyl would likely have opposed this position, as he apparently had no qualms with the Bush administration’s decision not to seek an extension of START I in 2007 and 2008.
In any event, the time for talk of a simple five year extension has long since past, thanks in large part to the Bush administration’s unwillingness to consider it.