Daniel W. Drezner

Your admission of error for the day

The only thing I dislike more than admitting I’m wrong is admitting that Spencer Ackerman was kinda sorta right. Cautiously in March and then more confidently in July, I predicted that new START was going to be ratified.  Right now, however, Josh Rogin reports that the odds don’t look so hot: Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl ...

The only thing I dislike more than admitting I'm wrong is admitting that Spencer Ackerman was kinda sorta right.

Cautiously in March and then more confidently in July, I predicted that new START was going to be ratified.  Right now, however, Josh Rogin reports that the odds don't look so hot:

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the key Republican vote in the drive to ratify the New START treaty, said Tuesday he doesn't believe the treaty should be voted on this year.

The only thing I dislike more than admitting I’m wrong is admitting that Spencer Ackerman was kinda sorta right.

Cautiously in March and then more confidently in July, I predicted that new START was going to be ratified.  Right now, however, Josh Rogin reports that the odds don’t look so hot:

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the key Republican vote in the drive to ratify the New START treaty, said Tuesday he doesn’t believe the treaty should be voted on this year.

"When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization," Kyl said in a statement. "I appreciate the recent effort by the Administration to address some of the issues that we have raised and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Kerry, DOD, and DOE officials." ?

Kyl spoke with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about it last week. A possible meeting between Kyl, Biden, Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the works and could happen on Wednesday. The treaty was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 14 to 4 on Sept. 16, and is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

The Washington Post reported that the White House is offering an additional $4.1 billion for nuclear facilities. This latest offer comes on top of the other promises related to nuclear modernization, which have a price tag totaling over $80 billion, that the administration has offered in an effort to win over Senate Republicans.

I thought Kyl was making some not unreasonable requests back in the summer, but as near as I can read the Obama administration had pretty much given him what he wanted. 

It’s possible that the treaty will be ratified in the next Congress, though that’s a tougher road, and there’s now some bad blood between Kyl and the administration to work away. 

Substantively, the treaty itself is not a nothingburger, but it’s not that big a deal either.  There are two implications that flow from Kyl’s decision, however.  First, he’s given the Russians a great excuse to become even more obsteperous.  As Bob Kagan pointed out earlier this month:

Few men are more cynical players than Vladimir Putin. One can well imagine Putin exploiting the failure of New START internally and externally. He will use it to stir more anti-Western nationalism, further weakening an already weak Medvedev and anyone else who stands for a more pro-Western approach. He will use it as an excuse to end further cooperation on Iran. He will certainly use it to win concessions from Europeans who already pander to him, charging that the Americans have destroyed the transatlantic rapprochement with Russia and that more concessions to Moscow will be necessary to repair the damage. There’s no getting around it: Failure to pass START will help empower Putin.

Second, even if START passes eventually, this little episode, combined with the endless ongoing negotiations over KORUS, are highlighting the massive transaction costs involved with trying to negotiate any hard law arrangement with the United States.  The rest of the world is now recalculating the cost-benefit ratio of doing business with the U.S. government. 

Anyway, the real point of this post is that I was wrong… again.  Let the pillorying in the comments section begin. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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