U.S. Senate Republicans have attacked details in a preliminary resolution put forward by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) last week as a step toward ratifying a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, Foreign Policy reported yesterday (see GSN, Aug. 17).
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April signed a pact to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The deal would obligate both nations to cap their fielded strategic nuclear weapons at 1,550 warheads, down from the maximum of 2,200 allowed each country by 2012 under the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The agreement would also limit U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear delivery vehicles to 700, with another 100 platforms allowed in reserve.
The "New START" pact has been submitted for ratification by Russia's legislature as well as the Senate. At least eight GOP senators in this Congress must vote in favor of a treaty resolution to secure its ratification in the United States.
Republican lawmakers expressed concern about the draft ratification resolution's language on topics including missile defense, nonstrategic nuclear weapons, provisions for tallying warheads and arrangements for exchanges of missile test flight data.
"There are a lot of concerns raised that the Kerry draft didn't answer," one high-level Republican staffer said.
On antimissile efforts, the draft resolution says the pact "will not impede any missile defense deployments that are currently planned or might be required during the life of the treaty, and it is therefore fully consistent with United States policy as established by the National Missile Defense Act of 1999."
"The unilateral statement issued by the Russian Federation on missile defense does not impose a legal obligation on the United States and will have no practical impact," the document adds, referring to Moscow's warning that it could withdraw from the treaty if future U.S. missile defense deployments threatened its strategic security.
Some Republican senators have lobbied for further measures, such as excluding missile defense issues from the purview of a Bilateral Consultative Commission that would resolve mediate enforcement of the arms control pact.
Sources in Kerry office said the draft resolution was intended to help kick off discussion of a final resolution's content. A letter submitted with the proposal welcomes Foreign Relations Committee lawmakers to suggest changes that could be incorporated in the final text.
"The Kerry draft was intended to be a framework to get us started," said Andy Fisher, spokesman for Senator Richard Lugar (Ind.), the committee's top Republican and a key GOP supporter of the pact. Lugar is expected on Sept. 16 to present an alternative ratification resolution aimed at garnering support from additional Republican senators.
Lugar and Kerry "are working on a resolution that will engender bipartisan support," panel spokesman Frederick Jones said. "Committee members are continuing to provide input on this resolution and this is an ongoing process. We're in the process of building consensus."
Lugar has approached some Republican colleagues to determine what a ratification resolution must include to receive their backing. The Indiana lawmaker's focus was on convincing Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) to support the treaty, despite their reservations about President Barack Obama's pledge to refurbish the nation's nuclear arsenal.
Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have indicated they would oppose ratification, while the panel's other Republicans were considered tougher targets than Corker and Isakson.
Kerry and the Obama administration "want some Republicans other than Lugar," a Republican staffer said. "So, the resolution Lugar writes has to be good enough to get at least Corker."
Ahead of a Senate floor vote on a ratification text, Republicans are likely to seek direction from Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who has been consulting with Vice President Joseph Biden on the treaty, Foreign Policy reported. Kyl has rebuffed suggestions he was "negotiating" conditions for the treaty's passage with the administration (see GSN, July 23; Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, Sept. 7).