New START, however, pertains primarily to the numbers. It requires the reduction of strategic weapons and launchers. Concerning the former, Russia's economic anemia is already forcing it into arms reductions. Concerning the latter, Russia already is below the levels the treaty would impose on America.
Deeply informed and rationally skeptical, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is arguing from the position of increased strength created on Nov. 2: Come January, there will be six more Republican senators. He implicitly - and lucidly - treats Russia itself as of secondary importance in the treaty. He is using his enhanced leverage primarily to increase the administration's commitment to modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal: All nuclear weapons decay, and no U.S. weapon has been tested since 1992.
"All the lab folks will tell you" modernization is imperative, Kyl said in a telephone interview Monday. Which may be why, he said, "for significant periods of time" Republican senators were "denied meaningful contact" with weapons laboratory scientists.
Senate Democrats, as well as the Obama administration, are hoping to ratify the New START agreement in the lame duck session of Congress, fearing that it will be dead if it's held over until January.