Obama and Medvedev

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the first of two committee hearings this Tuesday on the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation.  Attended by Acting Chair Ted Kauffman (D-DE), Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN), and briefly by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) the three senators pressed the Honorable Rose Gottemoeller and the Honorable Edward L Warner, III, two key negotiators for the START Treaty, on a number of key issues.

In a blog post earlier this week, Steven Groves listed four questions that should be addressed at the hearings, two of which were addressed today.  In response to a question relating to special deals allegedly made between the Obama Administration and the Russian Federation, Mrs. Gottemoeller stated “unequivocally” that no backroom deals were made between the United States and Russia regarding missile defense.  Furthermore, Senator DeMint asked the two witnesses why the negotiating record would not be released, which would ultimately allow the senators greater access into the details of the negotiating process.  Mrs. Gottemoeller responded that there was no historical precedent for releasing the records (properly challenged by Senator DeMint) and went on to state that doing so has the potential to weaken the stance of negotiators in the future.

In an otherwise tame hearing, Senator Jim DeMint launched into an impassioned appeal for missile defense.  Sen. DeMint went on to assert that this treaty is nothing but an extension of the Cold War-era Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) policy, which he believes should be considered unacceptable by the American public.  Mr. Warner responded to Sen. DeMint, stating that while the United States was committed to protect the homeland against a missile attack, a comprehensive missile shield is not practical.  Finishing his remarks in response to Sen. Lugar, Mr. Warner claimed it was the conclusion of “all” that Reagan’s aspirations for a multi-layered defense system that could work at any point in the missile launch from the boost phase to terminal phase is not an achievable outcome.  Such a position from a key negotiator on one of the most important treaties dealing with strategic weapons in recent history is nothing short of frightening.  As mentioned by Senator Lugar it is time this country got serious about a real national debate on the issue of missile defense.

Ricky Trotman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm