Last week I attended a meeting for faith advocates to talk with Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, and also the U.S.’s lead negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. The treaty has been signed by the President, and is now awaiting approval by the Senate. Ms. Gottemoeller emphasized that the treaty represents a pragmatic, well thought-out, and important step toward President Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Of course, the treaty is only one step in that direction, but it will achieve a significant reduction of deployed warheads, and it will implement mutual verification mechanisms to ensure compliance.
The treaty has already gained the endorsement of an impressive bipartisan group of current and former officials, including all living former Secretaries of State. Also, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have urged the Senate to approve the treaty.
But Ms. Gottemoeller said that one of the biggest obstacles facing the treaty is that the current crop of senators is relatively unfamiliar with the issue of nuclear nonproliferation. It has been several years since we – as a nation – have had to debate the merits of arms reductions agreements. Especially in an election year, opponents will likely play politics with the treaty.
The choice is between arms agreements like this one or returning to a Cold War-style arms race. For decades, Republicans and Democrats alike have agreed that agreements are the preferable option. Reducing stockpiles of nuclear weapons makes the U.S., Russia, and the entire world community safer. The Senate should approve the START treaty as soon as possible.