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Nuclear Option?

© Joel Pett

Luckily, the START treaty was ratified after all — on the very last day of the 111th Congress.



  1. No u wrote:

    My understanding is that the republicans didn’t have a problem with START itself, it had a problem with one clause, saying that Russia could opt out at any time if we create a missile shield in europe. I could of sworn I saw something saying we were talking about it again…so if thats the case…whats the point in signing?

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 5:43 am | Permalink
  2. patriotsgt wrote:

    No U – As I understand there was a piece in the pre-amble that stated it was non-binding. In the main body it was stated as binding. The argument was whether the language in the pre-amble superseded the main body or vice versa. In the end they were convinced that the pre-amble was not the “legal” part of the document.

    That’s all I was able to ascertain from piecing several different news stories together. I don’t believe the document has been released to the public yet, unless it’s on wikileaks. Perhaps some of our law professionals can shed light on the controversy.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  3. patriotsgt wrote:

    Update – I found the Treaty, duh, posted on the Whitehouse site that links to the State Dept.

    Here is the part that may have been causing the controversy, although it is contained in the main body.

    Article 14, paragraph 3
    Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty,
    have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  4. No u wrote:

    ahhh thanks

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    I don’t do much international law (mostly environmental and public health stuff), but my understanding is that all international treaties have some line in it that is all about protecting national sovereignty by allowing an opt out. Even the Montreal Protocol, which is one of the most effective international treaties (in terms of impact), has some line in it somewhere that allows countries to opt out of specific provisions. The whole national sovereignty thing is still a big deal to some politicians even though the operations of the global economy makes the nation-state a less important distinction.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink
  6. patriotsgt wrote:

    Thanks Starluna – I’m not sure if this was the problem, the words I saw used were “binding and non-binding”. I read the treaty, but could’nt find what they were talking about. If there was a separate preamble (a third document) then it may be in there.
    This still has to be ratified by the Russians after us, as I understand.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    One would think that if this clause were unusual and something to worry about, then the new START treaty would not have received the support of every former Secretary of State (both Republican and Democrat), all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Republican presidents, etc. etc.

    What I’m saying (admittedly without looking into it much) is that this sounds like a lame political excuse, not a real reason.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  8. patriotsgt wrote:

    You could be exactly right IK. If it is, then the media needs to cover it with facts and not just usual partisan rhetoric. I did see Greta (who is a lawyer) interviewing Senator Casey who would not say if the Repubs opposition was legitimate or just politics. He wouldn’t say why it should be ratified in the lame duck and not wait until Jan other than it’s been delayed long enough. On the question of whether the treaty would limit the US ability to update our missile defense or nuclear arsenal. He referred to Gates’ and Mullen’s statements. She asked him if the Russians would agree that the preamble was non-binding. He would not answer the question directly.

    I think he achieved maximum plausible deniability.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  9. Bert wrote:

    That clause has been a standard practice for international treaties for hundreds of years. The politicians have never made public of it. No treaty could be passed (internationally) without it, as every country wants its sovereign rights protected.

    Remember when N. Korea announced that it was no longer respecting the nuclear arms treaty. He was actually following that treaty, which said to withdraw from the treaty, a nation needed to make a public announcement of the fact.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink