The Cable

Obama team hopes to push through nuke treaty this year

Ellen Tauscher, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, got to do a victory lap today before the State Department press corps after months of grueling, painstaking negotiations with her Russian counterparts over the details of a new arms-control treaty that has become the Obama administration’s first signature achievement in foreign ...

Ellen Tauscher, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, got to do a victory lap today before the State Department press corps after months of grueling, painstaking negotiations with her Russian counterparts over the details of a new arms-control treaty that has become the Obama administration’s first signature achievement in foreign policy.

And she made some news, announcing that the administration now expects to release its nuclear posture review in mid-April, around the time of the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, which is aimed at combating the smuggling and potential use by terrorists of nuclear materials.

On the new arms-control treaty, the successor to the START agreement that expired in December, she said the administration’s intention is to "submit the treaty in the late spring and to seek ratification by the end of the year."

That could prove optimistic, given the negative signals key Republican senators are sending as well as the logistical hurdles involved in pushing the treaty through during what’s likely to be a heated midterm election season.

Asked about what some see as the new treaty’s linkage to missile defense, which some GOP lawmakers have warned would make them unlikely to support the document, Tauscher insisted, "[T]here is no limit or constraint on what the United States can do with its missile defense systems."

"There is no linkage," she said later, but acknowledged that the Russian and U.S. sides might issue nonbinding "unilateral statements" explaining their respective positions on missile defense.

Some components of the treaty will become public "later this month," Tauscher said, after which wonks and Hill staffers will pour over the text and weigh in with their critiques and questions.

Tauscher also pointed to a major conference in May to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the Obama administration has made the centerpiece of its efforts to show that the United States is meeting its international obligations.

"As we head toward the NPT Review Conference in May, the new START treaty demonstrates that the United States and Russia are abiding by the rules of the NPT," Tauscher said. "We’re doing our part to revitalize the Nonproliferation Treaty."

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