Last month’s ratification of the START Treaty was considered a victory for the Obama Administration.
They might not view is as such a victory in the weeks ahead.
Much of the Republican opposition to the bill centered on the ability of the U.S. military to continue their missile defense program, which is in the later stages of implementation. This has been a critical cornerstone of Republican foreign policy since President Reagan. To ensure that the policy would continue, President Obama signed a Presidential order that stated the START treaty in now way interfered with missile defense, even though the preamble of the treaty itself mentioned it. The White House stated that the preamble, for whatever reason, was not legally binding.
The Russians may view it differently.
The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, is actively pursuing language in its ratification of the treaty that would bind the US to rolling back their missile defense program:
[Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs says] “We will deal with these interpretations. The first thing is that our American colleagues do not recognize the legal force of the treaty’s preamble. The preamble sets a link between strategic offensive arms and defensive arms. The second thing is an attempt to interpret certain provisions of the treaty unilaterally.
This is our reaction on the US steps, which are not justified because you cannot selectively validate or invalidate certain provisions of the treaty. We are quite consistent here. We said that the entire treaty, the preamble and the articles have the same judicial force. This is logical and this is right.”
The irony? Kosachev is right. How can you arbitrarily take a line out of the treaty, preamble or not. and ignore it? You can’t. This is Obama trying to have his cake and eat it to. He placated to the Russians on the missile deal, and now cannot convince the Senate that such a giveaway is worthwhile.
If the Duma changes the wording of the treaty, in any way, then the ratification must go back the U.S. Senate…in which case, a simple letter from the President will not be enough to allow for passage, assuming the Duma is now clearly tying missile defense to START, something that has never occurred previously.
This is again the ignorance and incompetence of the Obama Foreign Policy team showing. They rushed the vote, thinking the Duma would rubber stamp anything that came their way. Time will tell if Putin will put his foot down, and force the Duma to pass the treaty as/is. But Putin has little to lose by letting this fester. And thus, Obama and the Democrats rush to pass this may come back to haunt them.
Most damaging longterm however is not the treaty itself. It is Obama’s credibility. The next time the President gives his promise or word, one need simply to point to his opinion on the preamble of the START treaty. It will be a long time before anyone, Democrats or Republicans, will go out on a limb on the word of this President.