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Five former Republican secretaries of state are practically begging the United States Senate to ratify the New START nuclear arms agreement between the U.S. and Russia.

The senate GOP, in the person of Sen. Jon Kyle of Arizona, has put a halt to the ratification of the treaty, despite the fact that the Obama administration worked with him for months to find points of agreement.  

In a Washington Post op-ed, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell, explain as patiently as they can that domestic policy disagreements between the parties are one thing.  The national security of the United States is quite another.

Although each of us had initial questions about New START, administration officials have provided reasonable answers. We believe there are compelling reasons Republicans should support ratification.

First, the agreement emphasizes verification, providing a valuable window into Russia's nuclear arsenal. Since the original START expired last December, Russia has not been required to provide notifications about changes in its strategic nuclear arsenal, and the United States has been unable to conduct on-site inspections. Each day, America's understanding of Russia's arsenal has been degraded, and resources have been diverted from national security tasks to try to fill the gaps. Our military planners increasingly lack the best possible insight into Russia's activity with its strategic nuclear arsenal, making it more difficult to carry out their nuclear deterrent mission.

Second, New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses. The testimonies of our military commanders and civilian leaders make clear that the treaty does not limit U.S. missile defense plans. Although the treaty prohibits the conversion of existing launchers for intercontinental and submarine-based ballistic missiles, our military leaders say they do not want to do that because it is more expensive and less effective than building new ones for defense purposes.

Finally, the Obama administration has agreed to provide for modernization of the infrastructure essential to maintaining our nuclear arsenal. Funding these efforts has become part of the negotiations in the ratification process. The administration has put forth a 10-year plan to spend $84 billion on the Energy Department's nuclear weapons complex. Much of the credit for getting the administration to add $14 billion to the originally proposed $70 billion for modernization goes to Sen. Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who has been vigilant in this effort. Implementing this modernization program in a timely fashion would be important in ensuring that our nuclear arsenal is maintained appropriately over the next decade and beyond.

Yet, despite getting what he wanted on modernization, Kyle withdrew his critical support for ratification, casting the future of the treaty in doubt.  These five former Republican secretaries of state join the rest of the credible foreign policy community in urging senate Republicans to stop playing games with American national security.

Will they listen, or will ignorance and petty political posturing rule the day?

Originally posted to UncommonSense on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 04:47 PM PST.

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