Brian Howey has a very interesting column on the demise of the Nunn-Lugar program for decommissioning weapons in Russia in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. That program is coming to an end. Howey points out that the end of the program probably has more to do with the ascendancy of Putin than the fall of Lugar, but Lugar’s ouster from the Senate by Richard Mourdock’s primary victory plays a role.
Russia is no longer interested in the Nunn-Lugar program which dates back to the early 1990′s and helped decommission scores of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Without Lugar in the picture there is no one obviously in place with the influence to advocate for the continuance in the program. Indeed, Lugar took crap from Mourdock for Lugar’s desire to implement the New START treaty.
Under terms of the treaty, the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers will be reduced by half. A new inspection and verification regime will be established, replacing the SORT mechanism.
The treaty passed 71 to 26; so the content of the thing was never very objectionable. It appears that what Mourdock (and his primary supporters) really disliked was that President Obama wanted the treaty passed; and working with him on any thing — even agreeable things — was tantamount to treason against the party. That’s where the frustration over partisanship comes from — not principled stands on legitimate issues of contention, but rather reflexive opposition based on the identity of the advocate rather than on the substance of the proposal. In simpler terms, it’s like when one kid grabs a toy only because another kid wants to play with it.
So, with Lugar out and, if Mourdock wins, Nunn-Lugar dies on the vine, you’ll have a Senate less receptive to generally palatable treaties like New START, and long term global stability takes more of a back seat to political orthodoxy.
From the Howey column:
The Nunn-Lugar scorecard now totals 7,527 strategic nuclear warheads deactivated and hundreds of submarine missiles, silos and launchers destroyed, as well as providing 24 nuclear weapons storage sites, and 20 biological monitoring stations built and equipped.
There is still more to be accomplished in Russia by 2017, which would have been a year after what would have been Lugar’s final term in the Senate. Only 82 percent of Russia’s 13,300 warheads have been deactivated and only 63 percent of biological monitoring stations have been built and equipped.
It’s a shame — and I’m as guilty of this as anyone — that informed geopolitical realities don’t play more of a role in a citizen’s votes for Congress. But our public debate on foreign affairs usually consists of demagoguing the Hitler of the Day and whatever negative foreign incident is freshest. Beyond that, most citizens don’t have enough information about the rest of the world to be able to think more deeply about our relationship to it. Someone suggested that war is the way Americans learn geography.
I doubt many voters will make their Donnelly/Mourdock choice based on New START or Nunn-Lugar or on their philosophy about compromise solutions negotiated with other countries generally. I don’t actually know Donnelly’s position on such things. I suppose it’s possible that he, like Mourdock, takes a my way or the highway, cut off your nose to spite your face approach.