Powell backs Obama on nuclear deal
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama rallied support for a stalled nuclear treaty from former Secretary of State Colin Powell today, as both men warned of grave consequences if the Senate fails to ratify the agreement with Russia.
“When you have uncertainty in the area of nuclear weapons, that’s a much more dangerous world to live in,” Obama said from the Oval Office after a meeting with Powell and Vice President Joe Biden.
Powell, a retired four-star Army general and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said he fully supports the new START treaty, and believes Obama has adequately addressed concerns of Republicans lawmakers over verification systems and modernisation of the remaining U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Failing to ratify the treaty, Powell said, could leave the U.S. in a vulnerable position.
“We’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the Russian Federation, and they’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the United States,” said Powell, who joined Obama in urging the Senate to ratify the treaty by the end of the year.
White House officials were cautiously optimistic Wednesday that momentum was building toward the treaty’s ultimate ratification. Officials specifically pointed to comments this week from Senator George Voinovich, Republican-Ohio, and Senator John McCain, Republican-Ariz., who both indicated they’d like to finish work on the treaty this year.
Leading Republican senators have begun to argue that any action on START would have to come after the Senate addresses an extension of Bush-era tax rates and legislation to keep the government operating during the lame-duck session.
Republicans have threatened to block any other legislative action that reaches the floor of the Senate. But that threat, spelled out in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, specifically did not apply to the START treaty. (AP)