Last evening, I attended the National Symphony Orchester at the Kennedy Center at which they played Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony No. 8.
The 20-page treaty has been completed as is the associated protocol. The many detailed pages of annexes laying out verification procedures and the complete explanation of the treaty – called article-by-article analysis – are not quite done.
But Presidents Obama and Medvedev will head to Prague on April 8 to sign the agreement – or should I say the Finale: Allegro moderato.
The treaty is important movement to reducing the limits on strategic nuclear weapons by about 30%. It is a step towards the President’s non-proliferation goals and begins a reset in U.S. and Russian relations that deteriorated during the George W. Bush Administration.
The treaty enhances U.S. security by verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and ensuring a stable and predictable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship.
When the Executive Branch announced the reconfigured missile defense for Europe last year, it let the information leak out in the worst possible way that led to misinterpretation of its decision and embarrassment.
It clearly has learned its lesson – the hard way – after both the missile defense decision and the dragged out health care debate. It has to explain its policies in the best possible light at the beginning, the middle and the end of the debates as well as afterwards because opponents are always looking to paint the worst pictures (death panels for grandma and caving in to the Russians).
This time the announcement was made by the President as well as the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I do not know many of the details, but there was an organized and systematic effort to reach out to key Senators of both parties, former officials whose endorsement of the treaty will help its passage through the Senate, national security reporters and columnists, nuclear experts and bloggers – including Plutonium Page’s Page van der Linden .
There was a long period when the Administration and sympathetic Senators held their fire and left the field open to Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and his various stink bombs about the treaty, but that’s over.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry put out a press release saying: “We can’t squander this opportunity to reset both our relations with Russia and our role as the world leader on nuclear nonproliferation. This is a major commitment by both countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and an important step in solidifying our relationship with Russia. Let’s get it done.”
Equally important, the Committee’s ranking Republican Richard Lugar added: “I also look forward to working with Chairman Kerry to begin scheduling hearings and briefings for the Foreign Relations Committee so that we can work quickly to achieve ratification of the new treaty.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin called the treaty announcement “welcome and much anticipated news” and promised “hearings on the national security aspects of the treaty and how it will be implemented.”
Lots of other Senators added their voices to the composition, including Casey, Franken, Kaufman, Majority Leader Reid and Shaheen.
It will take a similar effort throughout the ratification debate led by our conductor Obama, concertmasters Clinton, Gates and Mullen, and the rest of the orchestra.
As we know, to slightly mix my musical metaphors, the opera is never over until the fat (excuse me, outsized) person sings.