Honest and Dishonest Criticism: Mitt Romney and New START

Mitt Romney launched a blistering attack in today’s Washington Post on the April 2010 New START treaty, aimed at limiting strategic nuclear weapons. On balance, I think the treaty is a good thing, though I certainly recognize that there is room for reasonable debate as to its merits. What bothers me, though, is that Romney resorts to the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty in making his case against the treaty. In particular, he is alarmed by the fact that “Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty if it believes that the United States has significantly increased its missile defense capability.”

Romney is either ignorant of the workings of diplomacy or engaging in demogoguery in weighty issues of foreign policy. Neither explanation suits a potential presidential candidate. ALL treaties include clauses allowing the signatories to opt out. The United States can back out of New START as easily as Russia can. Russia’s reservation with regard to missile defense only makes explicit something which has clearly been part of Russian foreign policy since Gorbachev.

Need proof that opting out a treaty is nothing new?

Try Ronald Reagan’s 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, clause XV.2:

Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to withdraw to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from this Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

Or George H. W. Bush’s 1991 Start II, clause XVII.3:

Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from this Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

Or Bill Clinton’s 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, clause IX.2-3:

Each State Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. Withdrawal shall be effected by giving notice six months in advance to all other States Parties, the Executive Council, the Depositary and the United Nations Security Council. Notice of withdrawal shall include a statement of the extraordinary event or events which a State Party regards as jeopardizing its supreme interests.

Or George W. Bush’s 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions, clause IV.3:

Each Party, in exercising its national sovereignty, may withdraw from this Treaty upon three months written notice to the other Party.

So what does New START say (clause XIV.3)?

Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty,
have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that
extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this
Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give
notice of its decision to the other Party. Such notice shall
contain a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying
Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.
This Treaty shall terminate three months from the date of
receipt by the other Party of the aforementioned notice,
unless the notice specifies a later date.

What’s the difference between the opt-out clauses in the treaties negotiated by the previous four presidents and Barack Obama’s treaty? Mitt Romney’s planning on running for president against Barack Obama.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan is equally unhappy.

One Response to “Honest and Dishonest Criticism: Mitt Romney and New START”

  1. Mark Wilcox says:

    I join Fred Kaplan in his unhappiness and applaud him for, among other things, flagging George W. Bush’s use of the with drawal clause in Article XV of the ABM Treaty:

    “Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from the Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”

    All the hoopla about some new linkage of offensive and defensive arms is equally baffling (and disingenuous). Returning again to the ABM Treaty, two clauses in the preambular text are relevant:

    “Considering that effective measures to limit anti-ballistic missile systems would be a substantial factor in curbing the race in strategic offensive arms and would lead to a decrease in the risk of outbreak of war involving nuclear weapons,

    “Proceeding from the premise that the limitation of anti-ballistic missile systems, as well as certain agreed measures with respect to the limitation of strategic offensive arms, would contribute to the creation of more favorable conditions for further negotiations on limiting strategic arms, ”

    It just goes to show that arms control and strategic stability are too important to be left to politicians.

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