Can START Get to the Finish Line?


Dan Drezner, after pointing out that the START nuclear arms treaty is supported by virtually every foreign policy bigshot on both sides of the aisle, says this:

If the Obama administration can’t get Senate ratification of START despite the bipartisan support of the foreign policy community, well, it suggests that the foreign policy community doesn’t have the political capital it once did. I posited earlier this year that START would pass because it was pretty unobtrusive and wouldn’t play a big role in political campaigns. If GOP senators think differently, however, then you can kiss any foreign policy initiative that requires congressional approval bye-bye.

Best to start puckering up, I’d say. I’d love to be wrong about this, but the Tea Party base of the Republican Party, like every outbreak of right-wing extremism for the past century, is dead set against any treaty that limits the U.S. in any way, dead set against cooperation with Russia of any kind, and dead set against anything that gives up American “sovereignty.” So that’s that. I don’t think there are more than five or six Republican senators at this point who are willing to buck the tea partiers, and it will take more than that to pass this thing. If Obama submits it as an executive agreement, which only requires 60 votes, maybe it’s got a chance, but it’s hard to see how it gets to 67 in the current environment.

But maybe I’m wrong. As Dan says, START is a “modest treaty that yields modest gains,” and maybe there are still a few more foreign policy pragmatists in the GOP ranks than I think. I’m not sure I’d want to bet money on it, though.