The Arms Control Association often finds itself at odds with Senate Republican Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.). After all, Sen. Kyl led opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999 and to New START last year, both of which ACA strongly supports. Even so, ACA prides itself on cultivating a civil, fact-based debate on policy issues, and we expect the same of others.
We were thus disappointed to read Sen. Kyl’s Jan. 31, 2011 floor speech in which he mischaracterized ACA’s position.
In his prepared remarks, Sen. Kyl stated that the Senate’s Resolution of Ratification, which was approved along with New START on Dec. 22, made it clear that the Senate will not accept any future limitations on U.S. missile defense plans. To claim support for his views, Sen. Kyl wrote:
I am pleased to note a recent product of the Arms Control Association (“Strategic Missile Defense: A Threat to Future Nuclear Arms Reductions?”, 1/26/2011) that seems to agree with my point. In its recent analysis, this group correctly observed that the U.S. will continue to require “exempting strategic missile defense from treaties.”
This ACA paper by Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann, however, made no prediction that the United States would “continue to require” exempting missile defense from treaties. Rather, it identified “difficult choices for nuclear arms control policy” that include: “continue exempting strategic missile defense from treaties; develop extensive means of strategic missile defense cooperation; and/or accept modest constraints on strategic missile defenses.” The section concluded: “Although domestic political considerations may point toward the first choice, nonproliferation and stability objectives argue for the latter.”
Finding a “reluctant witness” may be an effective form of argumentation, but only when it is honestly presented.
Sen. Kyl is also wrong to imply in his speech that, as a result of the New START ratification process, a new disagreement has emerged between the United States and Russia over missile defense. Yes, it is true that the United States and Russia have differing views about U.S. strategic missile defenses and Russia’s potential responses to them, such as withdrawing from New START. But this is nothing new; it was true when the two sides signed New START last April and it was true when they signed the START I treaty in 1991. As much as Sen. Kyl would appear to hope otherwise, New START ratification has strengthened, not weakened, U.S.-Russian relations, and opened the door to meaningful cooperation on missile defense.
We hope that Sen. Kyl and other national leaders will seek to build on the success of New START to further U.S.-Russian cooperation on all fronts.