Is the START treaty a non-starter?

posted at 11:36 am on March 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

A year ago, Hillary Clinton fumbled a bad joke by giving Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov what she called a “reset button,” which got mistranslated to “overcharge” and didn’t use Cyrillic script for the Russian word.  Now it appears that the Obama administration may have bungled the translation of its newly-announced START treaty with Moscow.  The Russians claim that the treaty limits American efforts on missile defense, which the White House denies:

As the Obama administration prepared to send the new U.S.-Russian arms treaty to the Senate for ratification, differences emerged Monday between Moscow and Washington over whether the agreement limits missile defenses.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia reserved the right to pull out of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, if the level of U.S. missile defense forces increases.

“The package of documents presumes that the treaty is concluded in circumstances where the parties have appropriate levels of strategic defensive systems,” Mr. Lavrov said. “Changing these levels gives each party the right to decide the question of its future participation in the process of reducing strategic offensive arms.”

After Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev reached agreement on the treaty last week, the White House took great pains to portray it as the result of personal diplomacy by Obama.  He held off Russian demands for limitations on missile defense, according to the report leaked from inside the administration.  Obama supposedly went so far as to tell Medvedev the deal would be off if it included missile defense limitations.

Of course, no one has seen the language in the agreement as yet.  Obama wants to sign the treaty in Prague in a few weeks, and then send it back to the Senate for ratification.  However, Obama needs at least seven Republicans to get to 66 votes, the two-thirds margin required to ratify treaties.  If the treaty does limit American efforts on missile defense, he not only won’t get enough Republican votes for ratification, he might have problems garnering a majority in the Senate.

And if the Russians turn out to be right, the White House should answer for that self-serving bit of mythology they spun for the national media about standing up to Medvedev in the final days of the negotiations.  Instead of a reset button for START, the White House may have given the media an overcharged version of Obama’s spinal stiffness.

Update: McKittrick at Closing Velocity is willing to give Obama a “bravo” if he kept missile defense out of the START treaty. I’d call that a big “if” while Russia insists that the treaty allows them to rescind it if we pursue missile defense, though. If that’s the Russian attitude, then it doesn’t make a lot of difference what the text says, especially since missile defense is a critical need against foes like North Korea and Iran.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

haha

Only in America

Doctor Zhivago on March 30, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Why am I not shocked if this proves to be true.

Dire Straits on March 30, 2010 at 11:44 AM

the Obama administration may have bungled the translation

No surprise there, the administration can’t even figure out what NO means.

fourdeucer on March 30, 2010 at 11:45 AM

“Don’t wait for the translation, just answer the question!”

Tony737 on March 30, 2010 at 11:46 AM

Obama only shows his “spinal stiffness” when dealing the the American people.

farright on March 30, 2010 at 11:47 AM

WTF–over

SHARPTOOTH on March 30, 2010 at 11:48 AM

Barack Obama, the anti-Reagan.

Would it surprise anyone if he were to be found in the company of a dominatrix?

turfmann on March 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

While the White House was bumping itself on the fists last week on this START “breakthrough” with the Russians, the theme Obama focused on was us setting a good nuclear example for the world.

North Korea was not impressed.

Cuffy Meigs on March 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

Of course, no one has seen the language in the agreement as yet.

Health Care.

Obama told us what was in the health care legislation too.

Anyone who trusts anything this man, or his administration says is a fool.

Skandia Recluse on March 30, 2010 at 11:51 AM

In other news….Obama gave Russia the access codes to disable all of our weapons systems too. “They promised never to use them”

search4truth on March 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Would it surprise anyone if he were to be found in the company of a dominatrix?

turfmann on March 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

You mean he isn’t?

farright on March 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Hey, let’s elect a community organizer to be commander in chief.

petefrt on March 30, 2010 at 11:54 AM

I smile every time I see Sergei Lavrov fingering Hillary’s little red button.

Kralizec on March 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Obama only shows his “spinal stiffness” when dealing the the American people.

farright on March 30, 2010 at 11:47 AM

The American people are getting “stiffness” from this administration.

Aviator on March 30, 2010 at 11:56 AM

Anyone who trusts anything this man, or his administration says is a fool.

Skandia Recluse on March 30, 2010 at 11:51 AM

F.M. Lavrov and President Medvedev know Obama is a bungling idiot and they probably have as many unexpected surprises in the START traety as Obama has in his health care bill.

fourdeucer on March 30, 2010 at 11:57 AM

So, the treaty doesn’t actually do what Obama says it does, but let’s sign it anyway. Brilliant!

Mord on March 30, 2010 at 11:59 AM

The Senate should ratify the new START treaty so we can learn what is in it. — N. Pelosi

chaswv on March 30, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Kralizec on March 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Dude..

Mord on March 30, 2010 at 12:00 PM

So, I guess the Senate will have to endorse the treaty before we know what\’s in the treaty?

Amendment X on March 30, 2010 at 12:01 PM

We have to ratify this treaty so we can find out what is in it.

Aviator on March 30, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Comrade Zero will find out what the treaty actually says after he signs it. That’s how Dims do things now.

Cicero43 on March 30, 2010 at 12:01 PM

Apparently 12:01 was the exact moment in time for this thought.

Aviator on March 30, 2010 at 12:03 PM

control, control, and more control

mobydutch on March 30, 2010 at 12:04 PM

I’m just surprised the Russians haven’t figured out the Democrats and the big media outlets in the U.S. yet, and spilled the beans about what they think the treaty says before it got Senate ratification (since, like the health care bill, that way the Dems could try and pass it, and the bad parts wouldn’t get any press coverage until the measure was signed by Obama).

jon1979 on March 30, 2010 at 12:04 PM

After the way 0 read the insurance clause pertaining to coverage now for children’s pre-existing condition, it leads one to believe the Russians may be right about what the treaty does say.

Oleta on March 30, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Kralizec on March 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Hey, what ever happened to Huma Abedin?

Aviator on March 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

A non starter. START I and START II have been around a while. If Hillary is going to do anything, it would be ticking off people more so then helping with this.

upinak on March 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Anyone who trusts anything this man, or his administration says is a fool.

Skandia Recluse on March 30, 2010 at 11:51 AM

The Russians, both here and in the RF, know Obama as a weak fool. Obama and the administration is a joke to them–one they are exploiting as much as possible.

Real-world diplomacy meets lazy and weak narcissist. Guess who wins?

iconoclast on March 30, 2010 at 12:08 PM

So the Senate has to ratify the treaty before we get to see what’s in it?

Do we really have a rubber stamp legislature?

rbj on March 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM

Why’s PBO worried about the Senate? The way his budget has been gutting missile defense, the effect will be the same, treaty or no treaty.

And, with the track record Obama & Clinton are accumulating, in a dispute between Washington and Moscow over who skunked whom, my money is on Putin.

irishspy on March 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3a98b48593-58b9-4687-8213-979c9b36df69&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest

The New START Treaty agreed on by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev – to be signed in Prague next month – leaves the door open to an increase in nuclear weapon numbers, arms control veteran Keith Payne noted on Monday at a forum hosted by the Brookings Institution

the_nile on March 30, 2010 at 12:10 PM

Obama needs at least seven Republicans to get to 66 votes

For ratification, the US Constitution (II, ii, 2) says a treaty is ratified “provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur.” So, if everyone shows up they need 67 to ratify; if Byrd takes the day off, it’s 66.

Emperor Norton on March 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

I’m guessing that the Russians actually read it.

Lily on March 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

O come on,USSR needs to read the Healthcare bill,
the new improved treaty is hidden somewhere within
it,I bet!(sarc).

canopfor on March 30, 2010 at 12:16 PM

sorry to say, but I am leaning toward Russia’s take on this one. i just don’t trust that my own government is telling the truth.

jbh45 on March 30, 2010 at 12:20 PM

If anybody thinks thinks this administration can or will out maneuver the bear and gain any kind of advantage, they’re dreaming, but then dreaming seems to be a very common career choice of the left.

Speakup on March 30, 2010 at 12:21 PM

I’m guessing that the Russians actually read it.

Lily on March 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

I’m guessing the Russians actually wrote it.

Speakup on March 30, 2010 at 12:23 PM

I’m guessing the Russians actually wrote it.

Speakup on March 30, 2010 at 12:23 PM

I’m guessing we will end up with a deal than if the democrats wrote it.

Aviator on March 30, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Russian strategic nuclear forces

Current status

As of July 2009, the Russian strategic forces included 608 strategic delivery platforms, which can carry up to 2683 nuclear warheads….
==================

http://russianforces.org/

canopfor on March 30, 2010 at 12:28 PM

I feel like I’m in a freakin’ time warp! Peanuts, anyone?

BKeyser on March 30, 2010 at 12:38 PM

This guy is the smartest thing to come to DC since Abe? Jimmy Carter is starting to look pretty good now.

Herb on March 30, 2010 at 12:39 PM

Putin: “I looked into Obama’s eyes and saw a p*ssy.”

mwdiver on March 30, 2010 at 12:53 PM

What’s in this Treaty?
The Senate must ratify,
Then we will find out!

Haiku Guy on March 30, 2010 at 12:58 PM

The word incompetence comes to mind any time Obama is mentioned. He has assembled the most incompetent administration in history. Go back to his first few days in office to the British debacle, the bowing, Holder, Napalitano, 57 states, Quatro de mayo, KSM trial location, all of his predictions on the economy, getting almost all of what is in the HCR bill wrong, Honduras, Iran, Sgt Crowley and the stupid police, unemployment predictions and anything else that has any consequence to our country. He is never held accountable by the MSM and to most uninterested people he is a nice guy.

inspectorudy on March 30, 2010 at 1:00 PM

When did Barry grow a spine?

GarandFan on March 30, 2010 at 1:04 PM

All that happened was that children with pre-existing conditions will not be allowed to own missile defense systems, an easy fix.

Akzed on March 30, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Oh wow… I get to recycle this quote -

Obama: “Look the insurance companies Russians are just trying to make me look bad by following the letter of the law treaty. If they just followed the intent of my actions, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

Skywise on March 30, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Constitutional Lawyer.
Top. Man.

Skywise on March 30, 2010 at 1:17 PM

canopfor – how many of those ‘platforms’ are actually functional and operational?

JEM on March 30, 2010 at 1:34 PM

canopfor –

how many of those ‘platforms’ are actually functional and operational?

JEM on March 30, 2010 at 1:34 PM

JEM:If the USSR can be trusted,:)
==================================
Current status

In July 2009 the Russian strategic forces included 608 strategic delivery platforms, which can carry up to 2683 nuclear warheads.

The Strategic Rocket Forces have 367 operational missile systems that include missiles that can carry 1248 warheads. These include 59 R-36MUTTH and R-36M2 (SS-18) missiles, 70 UR-100NUTTH (SS-19) missiles, 174 road-mobile Topol (SS-25) systems, 49 silo-based and 15 road-mobile Topol-M (SS-27) systems.

http://russianforces.org/current/

=========================================

Theater / Operational Missiles
——————————-

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/theater/index.html

============================================
Status of World Nuclear Forces 2009*
————————————–
http://www.nucleardarkness.org/globalnucleararsenal/

canopfor on March 30, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Silly question. Do they need 66 or 67 votes to ratify a treaty?

Because the way I see it, 2/3 of 100 is 66.67 so they should need another full senator at 67 to fulfill the 2/3 requirement….

El_Terrible on March 30, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Then again, who’s to say Obama won’t just ‘deem’ it passed.

El_Terrible on March 30, 2010 at 1:47 PM

So, the treaty doesn’t actually do what Obama says it does, but let’s sign it anyway. Brilliant!

Mord on March 30, 2010 at 11:59 AM

No, he’s telling the Russians the truth and lying to the American people.

- The Cat

MirCat on March 30, 2010 at 2:00 PM

When did Barry grow a spine?

GarandFan on March 30, 2010 at 1:04 PM

It takes a spine to not give in to Russian demands to cut nuclear forces they can no longer afford for nothing instead of paying them to do it?

Well this is Obama we’re talking about so I guess that is a spine relatively speaking (since the option of demanding Russia give up something for our help was never on the table with him).

jarodea on March 30, 2010 at 2:03 PM

I read an article oner the weekend that Rickard Lugar (RINO-IN) is behind the ratification of START and is trying to convince other GOP Senators. You almost always know RINOs will try to betray us the only question is which one.

bw222 on March 30, 2010 at 2:09 PM

Would it surprise anyone if he were to be found in the company of a dominatrix?

turfmann on March 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

Our Inglorious Leader has no need to spend money on such foolishness. Michelle has crushed his integrity with his willing connivance.

ebrown2 on March 30, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Would it surprise anyone if he were to be found in the company of a dominatrix?

turfmann on March 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

I presume you mean as a submissive rather than exchanging notes on code words and humiliation strategies …

ExpressoBold on March 30, 2010 at 3:28 PM

Silly question. Do they need 66 or 67 votes to ratify a treaty?

Because the way I see it, 2/3 of 100 is 66.67 so they should need another full senator at 67 to fulfill the 2/3 requirement….

If everyone votes, they need 67 votes, or eight Republican votes.

If Byrd isn’t there, they may only need 66 votes, but that’s still 8 Republican votes, since they’ll only have 58 Democrats voting.

Greg Q on March 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM

Another B+ (graded on a curve).

karl9000 on March 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM

This is the “non-binding” treaty that Obama intends to treat as binding, right?

Jason Coleman on March 30, 2010 at 8:24 PM