To my knowledge, no Senator has yet to come forward and say that he/she will vote against the START follow-on treaty when it comes to the Senate floor (likely sometime early next year). However, some (mostly Republican) Senators have raised concerns about the trajectory of the START follow-on process.
For example, in a July 2 letter to President Obama, Senators Inhofe, Lieberman, Kyl, Ben Nelson, McCain, Begich, Sessions, Johanns, Wicker, and Hatch urged the President “to not combine discussions about U.S. missile defense efforts and the ongoing START negotiations….We feel strongly that linking missile defense plans to offensive force negotiations in this way runs contrary to America’s strategic interests and would undermine our security.”
The argument that the United States should not agree to further cuts in its nuclear arsenal so long as Russia insists on linking reductions in offensive strategic forces with missile defense has emerged as the key Republican talking point on the START follow-on process (so far). Yet the reality is that offensive strategic forces and missile defense have always been linked, and for good reason. John Isaacs recently penned an excellent memo on this issue, the key portion of which I’ve pasted below the jump.
In point of fact, President Obama, in agreeing to [the U.S.-Russia Joint Understanding for the START Follow-On Treaty], was reaffirming a long-standing U.S. position when he acknowledged the interrelationship between offensive and defensive systems.
That was most certainly true during the administration of President George. W. Bush.
A July 22, 2001, Joint Statement by Presidents Bush and Putin stated: “We agreed that major changes in the world require concrete discussions of both offensive and defensive systems.”
The preamble to the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (Moscow Treaty), signed by Presidents Bush and Putin on May 24, 2002, notes that the parties were “proceeding” from this joint statement in reaching their agreement.
In an August 13, 2001, press conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov conducted after a meeting with President Putin, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated: “We agreed that it is perfectly appropriate to discuss offensive and defensive capabilities together.”
Or take the interrelationship as proposed by Republican icon President Ronald Reagan at the Reykjavik summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev on October 11-12, 1986.
The official U.S. proposal was all about linkage:
“Both sides would agree to confine themselves to research, development and testing, which is permitted by the ABM Treaty, for a period of 5 years, through 1991, during which time a 50% reduction of strategic nuclear arsenals would be achieved. This being done, both sides will continue the pace of reductions with respect to all remaining offensive ballistic missiles with the goal of the total elimination of all offensive ballistic missiles by the end of the second five-year period. As long as these reductions continue at the appropriate pace, the same restrictions will continue to apply. At the end of the ten-year period, with all offensive ballistic missiles eliminated, either side would be free to deploy defenses.” (“Post-Reykjavik Follow-Up, National Security Decision Directive, NSDD 250, November 3, 1986,” Top Secret, declassified on March 19, 1996, Digital National Security Archive item PR01574.)
Or go back to another Republican President: President Richard M. Nixon. There most certainly was linkage when on May 26, 1972, when President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev signed the Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Interim Agreement on strategic offensive arms.
Linkage between offensive and defensive weapons? Never, except under Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon.
Clearly Russia is concerned about U.S. missile defense plans, which is why the joint understanding notes a linkage between offensive and defensive systems. Yet it’s also clear that the Obama administration is not ready to abandon the proposed European deployment and would prefer to keep missile defense on a separate track from reductions in strategic offensive arms. In fact, Obama and Medvedev have previously stated that the START follow-on agreement will deal only with offensive strategic forces. As Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak noted in early April “whether…absence of agreement…on BMD, whether it’s a showstopper for the follow-on to START, I would say no.”