Rice Endorses New START

It's official now - all living Secretary of States, including six Republicans and two Democrats, are in favor of ratifying New START. The one hold out was, until this week, Condoleezza Rice.  Laura Rozen spilled the beans. Rice's

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It's official now - all living Secretary of States, including six Republicans and two Democrats, are in favor of ratifying New START. The one hold out was, until this week, Condoleezza Rice.  Laura Rozen spilled the beans. Rice's statement of support - with caveats - is behind the WSJ subscription wall, but reprinted in part here.

First, smaller forces make the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure even more urgent. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona has led a valiant effort in this regard. Thanks to his efforts, roughly $84 billion is being allocated to the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex. Ratifying the treaty will help cement these commitments, and Congress should fully fund the president's program. Congress should also support the Defense Department in modernizing our launchers as suggested in the recent defense strategy study coauthored by former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Second, the Senate must make absolutely clear that in ratifying this treaty, the U.S. is not re-establishing the Cold War link between offensive forces and missile defenses. New Start's preamble is worrying in this regard, as it recognizes the "interrelationship" of the two. Administration officials have testified that there is no link, and that the treaty will not limit U.S. missile defenses. But Congress should ensure that future Defense Department budgets reflect this.

Moscow contends that only current U.S. missile-defense plans are acceptable under the treaty. But the U.S. must remain fully free to explore and then deploy the best defenses—not just those imagined today. That includes pursuing both potential qualitative breakthroughs and quantitative increases.

Now Sen. Kyl isn't going to budge just because GWB's main squeeze says the treaty's good, but now she can sleep easier at night, knowing she's (finally) joined the greybeards of her party in doing the right thing. It's interesting that she draws this artificial condition, that US missile defense should be protected from any treaty agreements. For one, it's already been established by numerous civilian and military experts that US missile defense isn't constrained by this treaty. For another, you may remember her testimony in the summer of 2001 was that the Bush administration's top priority was the national missile defense program, not terrorism.

So how did eight years of spending $7-10 billion a year on missile defense turn out?  Not so good by 2005, not good in 2008, and still not so good today. I guess the US missile defense program needs all the breaks it can get. Way to go, Condi! You've really nailed the important issue here.

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