Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Defeat, at any cost

It's easy to see the GOP's political calculations in declaring the New START treaty dead for this Congress: deny Obama any success and declare his presidency a failure. Now, whether a failed treaty with Russia will have any effect on voters in 2012 would seem dubious, but I get the logic.

But denying the U.S. a successfully negotiated treaty with a country with whom we have vital interests on the basis of a dubious domestic political gain is very, very foolish.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, due to both his country's restrictive politics and his high approval rating, does not face the same treacherous domestic politics as Obama. But he had to make political sacrifices to sign New START in April. Between alienating the anti-American populists that have persisted to some extent after the Cold War and Russia's successive economic collapse, angering the hardline nationalist elements that remain in his security and military services, and of course preparing to reduce the military might that once made Russia a superpower, Medvedev paid very real costs for New START. If the treaty falls apart in the Senate, Medvedev will have nothing to show for his sacrifices. That lesson will not be lost on the world.

If New START fails then heads of state, foreign ministers, diplomats, and negotiators from around the world will be forced to think twice before making a difficult deal with the U.S. They will have to consider the possibility that any political sacrifices they make in the course of negotiating could very well be wasted. That will shift foreign leaders' calculus, if only slightly, away from deal-making with the United States. Why even bother?

It would be one thing for the Senate to consider blocking a treaty such as the proposed South Korean free trade agreement, which would benefit some Americans but possibly hurt others. But the nature of Republican opposition to New START would suggest that even a deal crafted to be as favorable as possible to all Americans could still meet with Senatorial defeat.

I realize John Kyle is an aggressively stupid individual, but is there not a single adult in the Republican party that can stand up to this madness?

Oh, right.

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