An open letter to Representative Paul Ryan

Dear Representative Ryan:

In the coming weeks, it is likely that the New START treaty will be brought before Congress. I urge you to use your influence as a serious-minded rising policy star to promote the swift ratification of this treaty.

Doing so will not only be good for the nation, it will be good for Republicans.

Primarily, ratifying the New START will show that Republicans are serious about exploring all options for cutting the budget. Although the new freshman class has not yet been sworn in to office, sending a strong signal of Republicans' intentions now is the right thing to do.

John Bolton and John Yoo argued yesterday that the Senate should be wary of this treaty. They are wrong. The treaty is, in fact necessary -- as Fred Kaplan notes in Slate:
Bush's arms-reduction treaty expired at the end of last year; we currently have no inspectors on the ground in Russia; unless New START is ratified, we will continue to have no verification at all.
This is a situation that no serious thinker on defense policy should allow to stand.

Nor, Kaplan notes, does the preamble to the treaty preclude the Obama administration from pursuing missile defense programs as it sees fit. In the face of our nation's current fiscal position, we indeed should suggest shelving missile defense as a program that provides no likely basis for greater security while coming with a hefty price tag -- but we are currently not bound to preclude it.

Moreover, no less an authority on the matter than Robert Kagan has suggested that ratification of the treaty would carry advantages for the Republicans:
Setting up Republicans to take the fall for worsening relations may be cynical, but that doesn't mean it won't work. Moreover, there will be a kernel of truth to it. 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.
There are other gains to be had from cooperating now with Senate Democrats to pass the New START. Despite its vaunted rhetoric of bipartisanship, the Obama administration has offered little of substance on the issue. To be baldly cynical: cooperating on this measure will put greater pressure on Democrats to reciprocate when real spending cuts are brought up in the next session of Congress. Generously extending a hand now -- taking the high road -- carries no compromise on the focal issues of the recent election, while putting the GOP in a substantively stronger bargaining position for the real work that needs to be done to correct our country's economic path.

Sir, you have been a trailblazer on fiscal issues, and are rightly respected as an important and uncompromising voice on spending. Please use your influence on this matter in order to put Republicans in the place we need to be to do the important work for which we were elected.

Best regards,

-Steve S