START treaty: Good for the Jews?

Ratification of the renewed START treaty is one of the hottest issues facing the lame duck session of Congress and a rising priority for the Obama administration as GOP resistance grows.

It’s also a priority for some analysts who say renewing the treaty is critical in bolstering the Kremlin’s support for U.S.-led efforts to keep Iran from going nuclear.

Now some Jewish groups have weighed in.

The Anti-Defamation League has sent a letter to senators saying “We are deeply concerned that failure to ratify the new START treaty will have national security consequences far beyond the subject of the treaty itself. The U.S. diplomatic strategy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons requires a U.S.-Russia relationship of trust and cooperation."

Yesterday American Council for World Jewry chairman Jack Rosen said “Amid the Cold War rancor of the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan hardly shied away from criticizing and blocking Moscow’s policies on a range of issues, yet he realized that Americans would be more secure with a bilateral, verifiable reduction in strategic nuclear weapons.”

Cooperation with Russia is “indispensable to assuring global security and American goals, notably in blocking Iran’s dangerous quest for its own nuclear capability,” he said.

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) endorsed the Obama administration push with a bit of a partisan spin, calling on Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a chief critic of ratification, to “put politics aside, and join the broad bipartisan consensus behind START."

To probe a little deeper, I went to Shoshana Bryen, senior director for security policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and asked the obvious question: is START ratification good for the Jews?

Her answer: it depends.

JINSA, she said, has “questions” about the treaty, ‘particularly about the preamble and its impact on missile defense. But that isn’t a killer as long as the Administration makes it clear… that we expect to continue a robust ballistic missile defense program.”

Looking at the strategic equation solely in terms of U.S.-Russia relations would be a mistake, she said, because Russia “isn’t where the biggest threat to the U.S. lies.” Cases in point: Iran and North Korea – the former on its way to becoming a nuclear power, the latter already crossing that line.

So maybe ratification, but with some caveats.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.