President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Monday signed a framework for further nuclear weapon cuts that increases the likelihood their nations can finalize an accord to replace the Strategic Arms limitation treaty that expires on Dec. 5.
But the tight timetable could prompt the Obama administration to take the highly unusual step of bypassing the Senate and not seek the chamber's formal ratification before enforcing key portions the pact.
. . . Monday's agreement instructs negotiators to cut the number of deployed nuclear warheads on each side to 1,500 to 1,675 from levels above 2,200. But there are disagreements over what to count, complicated by lingering friction over U.S. plans to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The United States maintains the system is intended to deter threats from North Korea and Iran, not from Russia's arsenal. But Medvedev and other Russian leaders believe any such system cannot be purely defensive in nature and will fundamentally alter the balance of power, if installed.
The primary issue for both Russia and the United States is to avoid letting the START treaty lapse at the end of the year. So there might be time for Congress to act. And Congressional votes go mostly President Obama's way, as it turns out, reports CQ Politics. So this is probably not a huge worry for the administration. To quote:
. . . his success score of 95.2 percent, if it continues for the rest of the year, would be the highest for any president since Congressional Quarterly began this measurement in 1953. That’s true not only for the first year of a presidency, but also for any year.
. . .Democrats in both chambers are far more supportive of Obama than they have been for a president of either party in half a century. Senate Democrats are voting with him 92 percent of the time on average, and House Democrats are supporting him 89 percent of the time.
Senate and House Republicans aren’t consistent with each other in their support for Obama. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that members of the House GOP are voting with Obama just 36 percent of the time — compared with their average support score of 39 percent for Clinton in his first year and 42 percent for Democrat Jimmy Carter in his first year. But Senate Republicans have so far supported Obama 56 percent of the time. That’s the second-highest Senate GOP support score for any Democratic president — just shy of the 60 percent they gave Clinton in 1997.
Reference: From Congressional Quarterly - Behind the Lines by David C. Morrison, I quote the section on nuclear issues:
Know nukes: “No previous American president has set out a step-by-step agenda for the eventual elimination of nuclear arms,” notes a New York Times profile tracing the evolution of President Obama’s stance — while The Washington Post has him inking a nuke reduction accord in Moscow yesterday. The U.N. nuclear watchdog will help Serbia ship tons of spent nuclear fuel to Russia and decommission its research reactor, “removing it from a list of countries which could be targeted by nuclear terrorism,” Reuters reports — and see The Boston Globe’s inside look at the U.S. role in the just-completed withdrawal of all enriched uranium from Romania. World Politics Review, meantime, ponders Cuba becoming the 54th state to accede to the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, so as “to burnish the island nation’s counter terrorist credentials.”President Obama is good at this kind of thing. His approach is markedly different than that of his predecessor, and it will take the other leaders a bit of time to adjust to the new guy in town. He will do just fine.
[Post date - July 8, 2009]
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
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