LOCAL LOOK: Senator Johanns vote on treaty rare departure

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), a former agriculture secretary, governor and mayor, surprised many onlookers when he voted to ratify the New START Treaty.  Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star gives us an insight into why Senator Johanns bucked his party and joined with Senate Democrats to pass a dangerously flawed treaty.

“I reached the conclusion that not only could I support the treaty, but I should support the treaty,” he said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

“We got the things we were looking for,” Johanns said, pointing to amendments to the motion supporting the treaty that required modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and assured continued development of anti-missile defense systems, thereby addressing the key Republican concerns.

“The Obama administration agreed to put more money into modernizing our nuclear weapons,” he said.  “And the Corker amendments described to the Russian leadership what we mean by this treaty (in terms of) not backing down on developing our missile defense capability.”

Of course, there were a myriad of other problems with treaty; weak verification measures and no mention of tactical nuclear weapons, to name a couple.  And, to further complicate matters, it is uncertain that the amendments to the resolution of ratification will have any significant impact on how the Russians interpret the treaty.

As we said after the vote, all eyes are now on the Obama administration (and, frankly, those Senators who supported the treaty).  If Russia tries to limit our missile defense, continues to dodge verification efforts or refuses to negotiate in good faith on tactical nuclear weapons, the United States should withdraw from the treaty.  If we get to that point, hopefully Senators who supported the treaty based on a promise or two will own up to their mistake and insist on withdraw.

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