Bay Area statesmen work on START
President Barack Obama continues to pressure the Senate to ratify a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia. On Friday he did it from the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Two Bay Area statesmen, George Shultz and William Perry, have also been pushing for that arms agreement at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Perry was President Clinton's secretary of defense and Shultz was President Reagan's secretary of state. They are both now at Stanford and both are working to get the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, ratified by the Senate.
Obama said the message from the NATO allies is clear.
"New START will strengthen our alliance and it with strengthen European security," said Obama.
On Thursday at the White House he met with a room full of national security officials, both Democratic and Republican -- among them was Perry.
"It would seem that if Republican senators see their former secretaries of state standing up and saying this is a good thing, it would give them comfort in being able to go ahead and vote for the treaty," said Perry.
Republican senators have been threatening to block passage of the treaty. Incoming Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the vote should be delayed until the new Senate is seated.
"This is a critically important issue for the country, if it was so important they should have gotten it done, they should've got it done," said Blunt.
"I think it had to do with the belief it would get in the way of the election," said Perry.
Perry said delaying the vote until after the election may've been the president's thinking, but delaying it any further would be a mistake.
"The argument that we need more time to discuss and debate this, I think is spurious. We've had lots of time to discuss and debate it," said Perry.
Perry was one of the first witnesses called when the hearings on the treaty began last April.
"Huge numbers of questions raised, they've all been answered in writing," said Shultz.
Shultz says Republican objections over modernization and missile defense have been addressed, yet only one Republican, Dick Lugar, is on board. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, was a supporter, but now wants ratification postponed.
When asked if some of the Republicans on the hill are playing politics with this, Shultz said, "Well I'm at a loss to know exactly what's going on, I do think it's very important to get the things that are called for in the treaty into place."
Both Shultz and Perry say the Kremlin is watching and if failure would jeopardize Russia's cooperation on a whole series of international fronts.
"They are supporting us in Afghanistan," said Perry. "In the last six to nine months they've come around very strongly in supporting us in what we're trying to do with Iran."
Perry says a lot of that support has come from Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, who is defending the treaty against skeptics in Russia.
"And our failure to ratify the treaty would badly not only undermine our own president, but would also badly undermine the Russian president and I think would probably have a very negative effect on U.S.-Russian cooperation on into the future," said Perry.
Obama has said this is not about politics and that passage before Congress adjourns is about national security.
However, it is also about politics. In January, the Democratic majority in the Senate shrinks and the White House would need even more Republican support to get the 67 votes for ratification.
senate, NATO, democrats, republicans, politics, mark matthews
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