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Odd on many levels: Kyl to speak in Munich on U.S. non-proliferation position

The crisis in Egypt is occupying the time and attention of top administration officials to such an extent that Obama foreign policy critic Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is now representing the United States on a non-proliferation panel at the Munich Security Conference in Munich this weekend. Kyl replaces National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who was ...

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The crisis in Egypt is occupying the time and attention of top administration officials to such an extent that Obama foreign policy critic Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is now representing the United States on a non-proliferation panel at the Munich Security Conference in Munich this weekend.

Kyl replaces National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who was originally scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon to represent the U.S. perspective, on a panel entitled, "Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament: What’s next?" Donilon will remain in Washington as the White House continues to work around the clock on the Egypt crisis. The conference organizers chose Kyl, who is in Munich already, to replace Donilon.

The choice is perplexing because Kyl, who led the vociferous GOP opposition to the New START nuclear reductions pact with Russia, has been the most active and effective critic of the Obama administration’s non-proliferation agenda. He has also worked to raise concerns about the administration’s missile defense plans, its civilian nuclear agreements, and he is promising to stand in the way of the administration’s next arms control agenda item, the Congressional Test Ban Treaty.

The conference organizers bypassed top Obama administration arms control officials who will also be in Munich, including Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemeoller, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), will all be sitting in the audience as Kyl tells the assembled world leaders in Munich how he sees the future of arms control in the United States.

Many in the State Department are not happy with this turn of events, and wonder why the German organizers bypassed the administration officials. "We’re floored," one State Department official said. "It’s odd on many levels."

Requests for comment from the conference organizers and the National Security Council were not immediately returned.

So what will Kyl’s message be in Munich? Here’s an excerpt from his remarks on the topic last May at the Nixon Center:

Bottom line: there is no evidence our moral leadership in arms control and disarmament will convince countries to set aside their calculations of the impact of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism on their national security, and help us address these threats.  

The Administration’s security agenda is based on the notion of the U.S. making substantive changes to our national security posture in the hopes of persuading others to act, frequently contrary to their economic or security interests.  

But this good faith assumption that others will reciprocate is not supported by any evidence — it is certainly not informed by any past experience….

As you can tell by now, I am not much impressed with the notion that we can achieve important U.S. security goals by leadership which stresses concession by the U.S.  Rather than change and hope, I adhere to the philosophy of President Reagan epitomized in the words -peace through strength.

A strong America is the best guarantor of a peaceful world that has ever been known.  And there is nothing immoral about strength that keeps the peace. 

 UPDATE: Tauscher was added to the billet and spoke on the panel alongside Kyl. Our sources report that the panel went were and there were no real fireworks between Tauscher and Kyl.

The crisis in Egypt is occupying the time and attention of top administration officials to such an extent that Obama foreign policy critic Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is now representing the United States on a non-proliferation panel at the Munich Security Conference in Munich this weekend.

Kyl replaces National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who was originally scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon to represent the U.S. perspective, on a panel entitled, "Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament: What’s next?" Donilon will remain in Washington as the White House continues to work around the clock on the Egypt crisis. The conference organizers chose Kyl, who is in Munich already, to replace Donilon.

The choice is perplexing because Kyl, who led the vociferous GOP opposition to the New START nuclear reductions pact with Russia, has been the most active and effective critic of the Obama administration’s non-proliferation agenda. He has also worked to raise concerns about the administration’s missile defense plans, its civilian nuclear agreements, and he is promising to stand in the way of the administration’s next arms control agenda item, the Congressional Test Ban Treaty.

The conference organizers bypassed top Obama administration arms control officials who will also be in Munich, including Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemeoller, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), will all be sitting in the audience as Kyl tells the assembled world leaders in Munich how he sees the future of arms control in the United States.

Many in the State Department are not happy with this turn of events, and wonder why the German organizers bypassed the administration officials. "We’re floored," one State Department official said. "It’s odd on many levels."

Requests for comment from the conference organizers and the National Security Council were not immediately returned.

So what will Kyl’s message be in Munich? Here’s an excerpt from his remarks on the topic last May at the Nixon Center:

Bottom line: there is no evidence our moral leadership in arms control and disarmament will convince countries to set aside their calculations of the impact of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism on their national security, and help us address these threats.  

The Administration’s security agenda is based on the notion of the U.S. making substantive changes to our national security posture in the hopes of persuading others to act, frequently contrary to their economic or security interests.  

But this good faith assumption that others will reciprocate is not supported by any evidence — it is certainly not informed by any past experience….

As you can tell by now, I am not much impressed with the notion that we can achieve important U.S. security goals by leadership which stresses concession by the U.S.  Rather than change and hope, I adhere to the philosophy of President Reagan epitomized in the words -peace through strength.

A strong America is the best guarantor of a peaceful world that has ever been known.  And there is nothing immoral about strength that keeps the peace. 

 UPDATE: Tauscher was added to the billet and spoke on the panel alongside Kyl. Our sources report that the panel went were and there were no real fireworks between Tauscher and Kyl.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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