Obama Invokes Legacy of Ronald Reagan to Push Senate Republicans on New START Treaty

By Jaketapper

Nov 20, 2010 6:03am

ABC News’ Karen Travers and David Kerley report:

President Obama continued to push Senate Republicans to ratify the new nuclear treaty with Russia, invoking one of their party icons to make his case.

Obama mentioned Ronald Reagan four times in his weekly address, noting that when the Republican president signed a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union in 1987 he said, “trust but verify.”

“That is precisely what the New START Treaty does,” the president said of the new nuclear treaty that he signed with Russian President Medvedev in April.

“After nearly a full year of negotiations, we completed an agreement earlier this year that cuts by a third the number of long-range nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles that the United States and Russia can deploy, while ensuring that America retains a strong nuclear deterrent, and can put inspectors back on the ground in Russia.”

The nuclear agreement requires both countries to reduce their arsenals from 2,200 deployed warheads each to 1,550 over seven years, a 30 percent reduction from the last treaty. The U.S. and Russia also agreed to reduce their long-range missiles and launchers to 700 for each country as well.  

President Obama said today that the new START has helped reset relations with Russia and that will be at risk if the treaty is not ratified.

“So those who would block this treaty are breaking President Reagan’s rule – they want to trust, but not verify,” he said.

The Obama Administration wants the Senate to ratify the treaty before the new Congress takes over in January – when the Democratic majority there shrinks by six. The White House is concerned that if they wait until January, new members of Congress would succeed in blocking the treaty because they see it as too friendly to Russia.

The administration needs 67 votes for ratification so winning Republicans support is essential — but is not a guarantee.

Obama said today that “bipartisan support for New START could not be stronger.”

“[New START] has been endorsed by Republicans from the Reagan Administration and both Bush Administrations – including Colin Powell, George Shultz, Jim Baker, and Henry Kissinger,” he said. “And it was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a strong bipartisan vote of 14-4.

Yet some prominent Republicans have voiced concerns over the timing of the treaty and whether it will limit US missile defense. Obama noted the issue raised by Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) over plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

“We are doing so, and plan to invest at least $85 billion in that effort over the next ten years – a significant increase from the Bush Administration,” he said.

“The choice is clear: a failure to ratify New START would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security, setting back our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons, as well as our leadership in the world,” the president said. “That is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do.”

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