Darkness before the Dawn or just more Darkness?

The next three weeks will be critical for national security and foreign policy issues. It seems with each passing day, it becomes more and more difficult to advance and solve serious challenges; the election has made matters worse for enlightened discussion and constructive action by America.

The agenda over the next few weeks includes the last elements of Obama’s Asia trip, the G-20 meeting on global economic issues, and the Lisbon NATO Summit on the alliance’s nuclear policy and the alliance’s future focus. Not to be overlooked is the return of Congress next week for their lame duck session. Hopefully they will act quickly on the New START treaty and perhaps the FY-2010 federal budget including the national security elements that fund the Department of State and Defense among others.  Political polarization has many costs to America and among the most serious is American security in an uncertain and dangerous world.

With regard to the ratification vote in the Senate on the New START treaty, we have made many comments on the vital importance of that agreement; especially the loss of our verification of Russia’s strategic nuclear capability which has gone uninspected for nearly a year after the old START treaty expired. All experts say this is a serious disadvantage for us. High level Republican strategists and national security officials have advocated its rapid ratification. But some Republicans, unconcerned with the strategic ramifications, think the “veto” of the treaty is just one more tool in the destruction of our president

A related issue to New START is the debate over NATO’s future and role in developing regional missile defense as proposed by Obama (called “Phased Adaptive Approach’) and backed by most of our key allies. The Lisbon summit will include a meeting of the NATO-Russian Council, to be attended by the Russian president, after the formal NATO gathering. This meeting will allow us to engage with Russia and work cooperatively on a shared medium-range strategic defense system.  The Russians remain leery of U.S. and NATO motives but major efforts have been made to assure them it will not tip the balance of their deterrence. There are still unresolved issues regarding NATO’s “Strategic Concept” which will include a definition of NATO’s nuclear doctrine and likely stance on arms control and weapons reduction. At this moment the document remains a work in progress, after undergoing three re-writes to the draft. More on this over the next few weeks.

All these issues are connected to recent decisions by our allies to cut back on their defense expenditures which impacts NATO’s own global and strategic capabilities. Additionally, France and the UK (both of which are looking to cut defense costs) have been working on a program of close defense cooperation including sharing platforms and mission capabilities.

Also linked is our own defense budget including programs to “modernize” our own nuclear weapons to keep them “effective,”. Rather than modernize existing stockpiles, some conservatives want to build wholly new (and unneeded) warheads for hundreds of millions of dollars. So much for pretense of “budget cutters.”

Many are saying that the “Lame Duck” session may be the last, best chance to get New START ratified and established the base for further agreements with the Russians on many issues that are of concern to the U.S.  Please make you voice heard on this issue and contact your Representative or Senator.

I will be reporting on the Lisbon NATO meeting and developments in the ever-changing European foreign policy landscape during my trip to Europe next week.  All of these issues are interrelated and each piece of this complicated puzzle needs to fit properly to ensure global security and prosperity. Shall we continue into darkness or shall we light the candle to show the way?

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