Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

At NATO Summit, Obama Pressures GOP on START Missile Treaty

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

At NATO Summit, Obama Pressures GOP on START Missile Treaty

Article excerpt

Obama said those Republican senators who favor putting off a START ratification vote until next year were abandoning Ronald Reagan's nuclear disarmament policy of 'trust but verify.'

President Obama may be temporarily out of the Washington political maelstrom, but he used his soapbox from the NATO summit Saturday to throw a punch at Republicans holding up ratification of one of his stand-out foreign policy achievements.

In his regular Saturday radio address, Mr. Obama turned the tables on Republican senators who are balking at ratifying a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, saying they were turning their backs on the world-without-nukes vision of one their heroes, President Reagan.

In the address - which aired as Obama took part Saturday in a meeting bringing together NATO leaders and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - the president described the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) as part of a bipartisan foreign policy goal of nuclear disarmament going back through five administrations to Mr. Reagan. Obama said those Republican senators who favor putting off a START ratification vote until next year were abandoning Reagan's nuclear disarmament policy of "trust but verify."

The Monitor's View: NATO tries to reinvent itself at Lisbon summit

Obama and President Medvedev signed the new treaty in April, but it still requires Senate ratification - with a two-thirds vote - to take effect. The old START treaty expired at the end of 2009. Since then provisions for mutual weapons inspections are in limbo, and the US has lost its ability to verify Russian disarmament activity.

Obama had hoped to bring to the weekend's NATO summit in Portugal the certainty that new START would be ratified in Congress's lame- duck session. Improved relations with Russia are one of the few bright spots on Obama's foreign-policy ledger, but some US officials and US-Russia experts have suggested the warming could go cold if START is relegated to an uncertain future next year.

The US political squabble did not appear to be affecting Russia's Western engagement yet, if events in Lisbon are any indication.

Russia offers more cooperation on Afghanistan

At the NATO-Russia Council meeting Saturday, Russia formally agreed to ramp up its cooperation with NATO on Afghanistan. Russia will allow more supplies for NATO forces to pass through its territory, and for the first time will allow non-lethal military equipment leaving Afghanistan to exit through Russia. Russia will also join in the training of Afghan antinarcotics agents.

The expanded cooperation followed signing of a "long-term partnership" between NATO and Afghanistan that is designed to underpin the Afghan government and security forces as NATO gradually transitions out of its military role by the end of 2014.

The summit's morning session on Afghanistan included the participation of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had to navigate the conflicting currents of needing foreign military support on the one hand while desiring full sovereignty for his country on the other. …

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