Looking for leverage on New START

LOOKING FOR LEVERAGE ON NEW START…. For proponents of the pending arms control treaty with Russia, New START, much of the last several days have been spent trying to figure out who Senate Republicans will listen to, if anyone.

At this point, GOP opponents have blown off, if not explicitly rejected, the guidance of foreign policy experts from the Reagan and Bush eras, the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs, the intelligence and diplomatic communities, our European allies, and the American public in general. At this point, Senate Republicans don’t seem to care, though they’ve struggled to explain why.

But the White House hasn’t given up. Realizing that the only foreign governments who actually want to see New START fail are Iran and North Korea, administration officials have reportedly begun reaching out to pro-Israel and pro-Jewish organizations, urging them to help Republicans come to their senses.

Over the last three days, three major pro-Israel organizations issued strong statements of support for New START: the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Council for World Jewry (ACWJ).

“We are deeply concerned that failure to ratify the new START treaty will have national security consequences far beyond the subject of the treaty itself,” the ADL said in a Nov. 19 letter sent to all senators. “The U.S. diplomatic strategy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons requires a U.S.-Russia relationship of trust and cooperation.”

NJDC President David Harris said this week, “To me the nexus is clear. Ratifying New START is should be a central objective of the entire pro-Israel community.”

If this thinking has won over any Republicans, they’re hiding it well. Yesterday, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would vote to kill the treaty, arguing that its verification measures are inadequate. What Bond may not realize — the often-confused conservative tends to literally sleep through classified briefings related to national security — is that there are currently no verifications measures in place, the provisions in this treaty would have the strongest verification language ever, and if he and his party kill New START, it may be years before we’re actually monitoring Russia’s nuclear arsenal again.