"Flexibility": Biden to open new nuclear discussions with Russia

After the election, I have more flexibility.

Well, Putin did back off on pressing the issue of further reductions in missile defense, but now that the election is over, the Russian government and our own apparently have some unfinished business to take care of.

Vice President Biden is kicking off a four-day European trip on Friday, and plans to meet with Russia’s top envoy on Saturday in Munich to relaunch that Russian “reset” we used to hear so much about — nevermind Putin’s increasingly anti-Western behavior of late. Foreign Policy reports:

Vice President Joe Biden will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this weekend in Munich and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will travel to Moscow next month to try to kick-start a new round of U.S.-Russia nuclear reduction negotiations, The Cable has learned.

… Now, at the beginning of Obama’s second term, Biden and Donilon are leading the charge to reinvigorate that reset, following a series of setbacks in the U.S.-Russia relationship that has included President Vladimir Putin accusing the United States of meddling in Russian politics, anger over a new U.S. law to sanction Russian human rights violators, and a new Russian ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans. …

Some in Congress are concerned that Biden and Donilon, in their upcoming meetings with Russian leaders, will define exactly what that “flexibility” might mean and propose unilateral reductions in U.S. nuclear stockpiles or alterations to U.S. missile-defense plans as an enticement for Russia to sit down for new talks.

“Some in Congress” including Republican from Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, who sent a letter to Vice President Biden earlier this week wondering what all this is about.

“Ahead of your unannounced discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov this weekend in Munich, and prior to Mr. Donilon’s forthcoming February discussions in Moscow, I write seeking your assurance as to President Obama’s plans for future potential U.S. arms reductions,” Mr. Rogers wrote.

The lawmaker reminded the vice president that, as a senator in 2002, Mr. Biden urged the Bush administration to follow the precedent that “with the exception of the SALT I agreement, every significant arms-control agreement during the past three decades has been transmitted to the Senate pursuant to the Treaty Clause of the Constitution.”

According to Rogers’ letter, Donilon plans to transmit a personal letter from Obama to Putin “articulating his plans for further U.S. arms reductions and perhaps even agreements about U.S. missile defenses to entice Russia to the negotiating table,” and he asks that that letter be made available to Congress upon Donilon’s return — I’m sure The Most Transparent Administration, Evah understands the request.

Republicans also questioned Hagel about his potential plans for our nuclear arsenal during his confirmation hearings yesterday:

Other Republicans on the committee repeatedly pressed Hagel on his support for endorsement of Global Zero, the movement calling for abolition of nuclear weapons by 2030.

Hagel served on the Global Zero U.S. Nuclear Policy Commission which issued a report last May calling for an 80 percent reduction in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Hagel told ranking Republican committee member Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma that his position “has never been unilateral disarmament.”

And he said the Global Zero report was discussing “illustrative possibilities” and “scenarios” and wasn’t urging specific policies.

But last May’s Global Zero report, which Hagel signed on to, says that a drastically smaller U.S. arsenal could be negotiated bilaterally with Russia – “or implemented unilaterally.”

In his opening statement Hagel pledged that he would maintain an effective nuclear arsenal. “America’s nuclear deterrent over the last 65 years has played a central role in ensuring global security and the avoidance of a World War III. I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal,” he said.

None of this bodes very well, does it?