Peace or Partisanship? New START Reaches a Critical Juncture

By Adam Woods 09-28-2010

Nuclear policy typically moves at a glacial speed, with opportunities for progress few and far between. Yet this fall we have an opportunity to take a critical step forward, away from the nuclear postures of the Cold War, and toward a future less reliant upon the bloated arsenals of a bygone era.

In bipartisan fashion, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently voted to approve the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) by a 14-4 vote, sending it to the Senate floor where ratification now rests on continued bipartisan support and at least 67 votes.

This agreement between the United States and Russia calls for modest cuts to deployed arsenals, reestablishes on-the-ground verification measures, and is a practical step toward the long-term elimination of nuclear weapons. But while last week's vote in the Foreign Relations Committee was a big step in the right direction, it's not yet time to celebrate. A tight Senate schedule this fall means that unless Senators from both parties publicly call for a vote on the treaty, the agreement may not be ratified this year.

However, based on its merits, there is no legitimate reason why the New START treaty shouldn't have the full support of the U.S. Senate -- the agreement is overwhelmingly endorsed by nonpartisan military and national security experts, as well as current and former commanders of our nuclear weapons, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Additionally, the treaty has significant support from faith groups across the spectrum, including the World Evangelical Alliance, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Council of Churches. As the civil rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery and Southern Baptist minister Jonathan Merritt wrote in a recent op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,"While this treaty will not end the nuclear danger, let alone end war, it is a step in the right direction -- and a measure deserving the support of all who wear Christ's gentle yoke."

This fall we have a remarkable opportunity to work and witness for a world without nuclear weapons, and the chance to demonstrate the growing moral and cultural consensus for disarmament. So be sure to take action today for the peace and security of tomorrow -- contact your Senators and urge them to support the ratification of the New START treaty.

Adam Woods is the Campaign Manager of the Two Futures Project.

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