The immediate approval of the New START Treaty by the Senate is vitally important to U.S. national security. Failure to ratify this treaty in a timely manner would damage our relations with Russia -- at a time when Russia has just agreed to work with US and NATO on missile defense against Iran -- and thus undermine the international consensus to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. A nuclear-armed Iran would threaten the United States, Europe and Israel, which Iranian President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to eradicate from the face of the earth.
In addition, ratifying the NEW START treaty will allow the U.S. to resume inspections of the Russian nuclear arsenal -- which were cut off when the START I treaty expired over a year ago. Former President Ronald Reagan wisely said "Trust, but verify". Without the NEW START, we will be forced to rely on trust alone. By not approving this treaty, the Senate would also be dealing a fatal blow to the weapons reduction treaty negotiated by former President George W. Bush, which also depended on the now-expired verification arrangements.
Arguments made by opponents of the treaty simply don't hold water. The New START inspection regime is not weaker than the one under the old START treaty; in fact, it is stronger, with intrusive inspections, and is significantly stronger than anything proposed by the previous administration. U.S. missile defense plans are in no way compromised by the Treaty or by Russian statements -- the Obama missile defense plans in Europe, stronger than the Bush proposed system, will proceed. The U.S. nuclear weapons production and maintenance infrastructure has gotten massive new funding under this administration, with more forthcoming -- much more than was provided by the previous administration or the Republican Congress.
Despite months of efforts by the Obama administration, there are still some in the Senate who do not think there is enough time to consider the Treaty in the remaining days of this Congress. Concerning such a vital matter of national security, the Senate should be prepared to stay in session an extra week or two if that is what it takes to complete its deliberations.
It is time to stop playing partisan politics with U.S. national security. The Senate should immediately consider and give its advice and consent to ratification of the New START treaty.
The author is the Democratic Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He represents the 28th District of California.
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