Picking on Both Sides of the Aisle
Just as Democrats who have held up trade agreements argue that there is no need to rush, so to Republicans contend that the new START agreement is not particularly urgent because Russia’s economic situation does not permit a massive reconstruction of its nuclear force. But just as the trade agreement send important signals about the U.S. commitment to friends and allies, the START treaty is important both for making progress in the U.S.-Russia relationship (and perhaps laying the groundwork for a follow-on treaty dealing with the question of tactical nuclear weapons) but also for demonstrating that even with its massive superiority in both conventional and nuclear capabilities, the United States is willing to entertain some limits on its military force—a signal which may be important in the years to come if we are to persuade China that its rise in the international system does not need to lead to inevitable conflict, as John Mearsheimer again predicts.
Neither the trade agreements nor the new START are perfect. On balance, however, the benefits of these agreements outweigh their defects—most importantly, because they help to “wire” a new global architecture for our time, developing a current web of trade and treaties. These compacts should not be held hostage to the vicissitudes of U.S. domestic politics.