Russia “warned the United States Senate on Monday not to rewrite the new arms control treaty being debated on Capitol Hill as American lawmakers clashed about the politics of ratification in the waning days of the Congressional session,” the New York Times reports.
Republican critics of the treaty, known as New Start, offered more amendments to the treaty’s language on verification and launcher limits. But any change to the treaty text would require both countries to return to the negotiating table, and Moscow made it clear that senators had to accept the treaty or reject it as it is, without amendments.
“I can only underscore that the strategic nuclear arms treaty, worked out on the strict basis of parity, in our view fully answers to the national interests of Russia and the United States,” Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told the Interfax news agency on Monday. “It cannot be opened up and become the subject of new negotiations.”
The Russian statement provoked a sharp response from the leading Republican treaty opponent, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. “What’s wrong with that?” he asked of returning to the negotiating table to improve the treaty. “Unless you think the U.S. Constitution was really stupid to give the Senate a role in this, it doesn’t seem there’s anything wrong with the Senate saying, ‘You got about nine-tenths of it right.’ ”
The Senate floor debate on New Start turned increasingly harsh as supporters of the treaty prepared for a procedural vote on Tuesday to close off further discussion. The treaty’s fate appeared to be entangled by unrelated factors, including an acrimonious deadlock over a spending bill, anger among some Republicans over passage of legislation ending the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, and the widespread view that approval of the treaty would help rejuvenate a weakened president.