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Politics is politics, and can be played by both sides with equal pettiness. The Administration is eager to secure passage of a Treaty important to the President before the new Congress tilts more power to the Republicans, and the GOP is of course in no particular hurry to do the White House any favors. But by linking a vital military program to a partisan effort to apply political pressure on the Republicans, the White House is going too far.
This is not exactly a break with tradition, however. As the President told a fawning crowd in Prague in 2009, he has long sought a world free of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for the country he leads, he has shown a habit of moving to weaken the American nuclear force first, and hope the rest of the world catches up later. Last spring the President publicized his Administration’s nuclear posture review, which was meant to be a sign of good faith to the world, pledging that America would never strike first with nuclear weapons unless facing an extreme national emergency — as if that really needed to be said. It also disclosed the exact size of America’s arsenal, pegged at just over 5,100 warheads.
America needs new nuclear weapons. It does not need more of them, but it needs newer models that it knows that it can depend on to work, if — God help us — they should ever be needed. Both Russia and China have of late been working to improve their long-range strike capabilities, and America cannot afford to fall behind by fielding the world’s best missiles with the world’s least trustworthy nuclear warheads. It is understandable that President Obama wants to preserve his diplomatic victory. But maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent for his country must be his top priority. Relations with Russia will ebb and flow (currently, they’re they are tense) and Congress can be negotiated with as well after the new year as before it. Politics is a rough sport, but the White House must not punish its own country for political defeats it suffers at the hands of a newly energized Republican Party.
Matt Gurney is an editor at the National Post, a Canadian national newspaper, and writes and speaks on military and geopolitical issues. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney.
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