As things heat up again on the Korean peninsula, now is not the time to delay U.S. and Russian negotiations on an expanded nuclear weapons treaty known as the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).
Both countries have condemned the North Korean shelling of a South Korean island and, just last month, U.S. and Russian drug agents joined forces to begin the daunting challenge of clearing out illegal opium operations in Afghanistan.
Stalling on treaty approval by key Republicans in the U.S. Senate, for the purpose of denying President Barack Obama a perceived foreign policy victory, is misguided and even foolhardy.
The best interests of the U.S. and even the world rest in our leading the way on reducing nuclear weapons. In the spirit of the season of goodwill we need — now more than ever — to reach out to former enemies and turn them into strong new allies.
The U.S. and Russia possess 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, about 20,000 warheads, according to a recent Washington Post report.
The New START would cut about 2,200 to 1,550 missiles, eliminating about a third of the warheads the two countries possess.
As we loudly protest the development of nuclear weapons by rogue governments like Iran's and North Korea's, it is hypocritical not to reduce our own stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
The treaty also would open the door for a new inspection and verification process that allows both the Americans and the Russians to see that these weapons are being destroyed and taken offline at the mutually agreed upon pace.
To be taken seriously on the world stage, both Russia and the U.S. need to lead in their outreach on this issue critical to global safety.
The proposed treaty is the result of years of work, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and it has undergone more than 20 hearings on Capitol Hill.
For years, Congress has been able to act in a bipartisan fashion on this critical issue. Indeed, the entire START process was initiated by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and the first treaty was signed by George H.W. Bush in 1991. The chief Republican expert on nuclear issues, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., supports this treaty.
The treaty is familiar to this Congress. Waiting until January will require reacquainting newly elected senators with this highly complex and technical issue, perhaps delaying approval for months.
We can't help but wonder what Maine's child-peace ambassador, the late Samantha Smith, would think of the political foot-dragging going on in Congress on this grave topic.
Both countries owe it to the world and future generations to approve this treaty as quickly as possible. Stalling this process for whatever slight political gain it may hold is just the wrong thing to do.