WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will oppose the new START Treaty, a bilateral arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia that is one of President Obama‘s top foreign relations priorities.
“I’ve decided I cannot support the treaty,” said McConnell on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning. “I think the verification provisions are inadequate, and I do worry about missile defense implications.”
On Saturday, the Senate defeated an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another opponent of the agreement, to amend the treaty’s preamble by separating the issue of missile defense from efforts to reduce American and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Ma.) strongly objected to McCain’s move, pointing out that the preamble is not a binding part of the document and such changes would slow down the approval process by months.
The amendment “requires us to go back to the Russians and renegotiate,” said Kerry. “That’s a treaty-killer.”
On Saturday, President Obama issued a letter clarifying the treaty’s stance on missile defense, saying it “places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs.” He promised to “take every action available to me to support the deployment of all four phases” of a missile defense system in Europe.
On CNN, McConnell said the letter wasn’t adequate, because “an equally important question is how do the Russians view missile defense and how do our European allies view missile defense, and I’m concerned about it.”