Is GOP Risking a New Cold War?

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Before Republican
senators vote down the strategic arms reduction treaty negotiated
by the Obama administration, they should think long and hard about
the consequences.

In substance,
New START has none of the historic significance of Richard Nixon’s
SALT I or ABM treaty, or Jimmy Carter’s SALT II, or Ronald
Reagan’s INF treaty removing all intermediate-range missiles
from Europe, or the strategic arms reductions treaties negotiated
by George Bush I and Bush II.

The latter
cut U.S. and Russian arsenals from 10,000-12,000 nuclear warheads
targeted on each nation to 2,000 – a huge cut.

If Republicans
could back those treaties, what is the case for rejecting New START?
Barack Obama’s treaty reduces strategic warheads by 450, leaving
each side 1,550.

Is this not
enough to deter when we consider what the Chernobyl disaster did
to the Soviet Union and what the knockdown of two buildings in New
York has done to this country? Ten hydrogen bombs on the United
States or Russia could set us back decades, let alone 1,000.

Sen. Jon Kyl
of Arizona is holding up the treaty until he gets more assurances
that the administration will do the tests and upgrades necessary
to maintain the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons. He should receive
those assurances.

Maintaining
the credibility of the U.S. deterrent is a vital national interest.
But does this justify holding the treaty hostage?

Without a treaty,
we lose our right and our ways and means to verify that Russia is
carrying out the terms of arms treaties already agreed upon.

How does leaving
the United States in the dark about who is doing what with Moscow’s
nuclear weapons enhance our security?

Not only are
our allies behind this treaty – as are Republican secretaries
of state and defense and ex-national security advisers – so,
too, is the Pentagon.

If the joint
chiefs say this treaty is good for America, what do the reluctant
Republican senators believe is wrong with it? Have they considered
the impact of the treaty’s defeat on Russia?

In Russia today,
there is a widespread belief that when the Soviet Union gave up
its global empire, allowed itself to be split apart into 15 nations,
and brought the Red Army home from Europe, America exploited her
weakness by moving NATO onto her front porch.

We brought
the Baltic states, all former republics of the USSR, into an alliance
aimed against Russia. George W. Bush sought to bring in Ukraine
and Georgia, thereby surrounding a Russia that had sought our friendship
with U.S. power.

Among Russia’s
elite, there is an understandable distrust of the intentions of
their old superpower rival. For Republicans in the Senate to kill
New START would clinch the case of the anti-Americans in Moscow
that we are not interested in nuclear parity but seek strategic
superiority.

Killing the
treaty would morally disarm those Russians who see their future
with the West.

On taking office,
Obama put the Ukraine-Georgia accession to NATO on a back burner
and canceled the anti-missile missile system planned for Poland
and the Czech Republic. His policy has paid dividends.

Half of the
U.S. supplies going to the war in Afghanistan go through Russia.
Moscow has backed U.N. sanctions on Iran and refused to deliver
to Iran the A-300 surface-to-air missile system it had promised.
President Dmitri Medvedev is interested in Russia’s participation
in a missile defense for all of Europe.

Behind the
Obama policy lies this reality. The best way, the only credible
way to secure the freedom and independence of former Soviet republics
like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and Georgia is not by
threatening Russia with war, but by bringing Russia in from the
cold and giving Russia a growing stake in aligning with the West.

No matter the
NATO war guarantees we have given to the Baltic republics, we are
not going to war with Russia over Estonia. For the first result
of such a war would be the annihilation of Estonia.

Moreover, many
of Russia’s concerns are our concerns. Moscow does not want
to see a Taliban triumph in Afghanistan, as that would embolden
Islamic secessionist movements across the North Caucasus that have
conducted terror attacks inside Russia itself.

Russia
is also deep into a demographic crisis, with more than 500,000 Russians
disappearing every year. That this should happen is both a human
tragedy and a strategic disaster, for Siberia and the Russian Far
East, and all their resources could wind up under the de facto control
of 1.4 billion Chinese.

Richard Nixon
would have supported this treaty. Ronald Reagan would have supported
this treaty, as he loathed nuclear weapons and wished to rid the
world of them. And simply because this treaty is “Obama’s
treaty” does not mean it is not in America’s interest.

If Republicans
should kill New START, and Vladimir Putin responds by using U.S.
rejection to rev up Russian nationalism to terminate the “reset”
and return to a policy of cooperating with America’s enemies
from Pyongyang to Tehran to Caracas, does the Republican Party wish
to be held responsible for that?

November
25, 2010

Patrick
J. Buchanan [send
him mail
] is co-founder and editor of The
American Conservative
. He is also the author of seven books,
including Where
the Right Went Wrong
, and A
Republic Not An Empire
. His latest book is Churchill,
Hitler, and the Unnecessary War
. See his
website
.

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Best of Patrick J. Buchanan

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