The State Department is sorely upset about July 28 headlines in The Washington Post and The Washington Times about a recent Department report on Russian noncompliance with several existing and past arms control treaties and how the Russian record could derail Senate approval of the new arms control treaty with Russia, which is called New START. It seems, however, that the State Department cannot keep its story straight.

According to a report in Foreign Policy’s online journal The Cable, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller asserts that Russian non-compliance with New START’s predecessor treaty, called simply START, was about minor technical issues. On the other hand, a State Department official speaking off the record is quoted as saying, “As far as State is concerned, cheating in any form would be a huge issue … so it absolutely would be something we would take very seriously.”

So which is it? Are some instances of Russian noncompliance with arms control agreements just minor concerns and of little significance, or are they all treated as a “huge issue”? It seems that for the State Department the answer depends on which argument is most expedient in justifying Senate consent to the ratification of New START. Blatant contradictions in the pursuit of New START entry into force need not apply.

Clearly, the Senate should ignore attempts by the State Department to “spin” the story about its own report. The obvious contradictions by State officials give it no choice in any event. Senators should read the report, including its classified portions, and attempt to answer for themselves the following question: Does the Russian record regarding arms control compliance provide confidence that the entry into force of New START cannot be manipulated by Russia in ways that damage or weaken the security of the U.S. and its allies?