Sen. Kyl: Obama’s goal for nuclear weapon-free world is 'loopy'

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) called President Obama’s goal of a nuclear weapon-free world “loopy” on Tuesday while charging the administration with allowing Moscow too much sway over America’s atomic arsenal and missile defense plans.

In a breakfast speech on Capitol Hill, Kyl slammed the administration for basing its nuclear-weapons and missile-defense plans on “trying not to offend the Russians.”

He also charged the White House with “ignoring the current real threats” posed by the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, saying administration officials have focused on “easier” issues to get “good PR.”

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Kyl also criticized the administration for “rewriting” U.S. deterrence policy to fit its desires for a nuclear weapon-free planet. Reducing U.S. atomic arms will only cause rogue states — and even U.S. allies — to “try to match” the U.S. stockpile, he said.

Doing so could lead to a major global conflict because the U.S. nuclear deterrent would be offset by other nations’ atomic arsenals, Kyl said. What's more, with many more nations nuclear-equipped, every global conflict would become a nuclear “hair-trigger event,” he warned.

Kyl, the chief opponent of the White House’s drive in December to win approval of a new arms treaty with Russia, focused most of his remarks on the administration’s handling of that nuclear power.

Should Moscow raise concerns about any of Washington’s missile defense plans, Kyl said he has concluded “the administration won't do it.” 

Kyl said it is fine to increase cooperation with Russian officials on a range of issues, but that he sees “no signs” that the administration’s policy of resetting U.S.-Russian relation “has benefited the U.S.”

Some senior Pentagon and administration officials have said they want closer cooperation with Russia on missile defenses in Europe that are designed to thwart strikes from Iran.

But Kyl objects, saying “it would be a very large mistake to make Russia a partner on missile defense.”

Greater cooperation with Moscow, he warned, “could drive a wedge” between Washington and key allies in Europe.

Kyl said nuclear-weapons proponents worked the phones and persuaded House and Senate leaders to avoid adopting a provision pushed by House lawmakers to slash over $300 million from the administration's 2011 request for modernization of existing U.S. nuclear weapons.

He acknowledged House GOP leaders have a tough go of securing funds for such programs because of how “aggressively” Tea Party-backed freshmen are insisting on big federal spending reductions. He said ensuring modernization programs get ample funds in the 2012 budget “will be a challenge.”

Kyl did applaud the administration for sticking by its promise to devote $85 billion over the next decade for nuclear-weapons modernization and related facilities work by fully funding those efforts in its 2012 budget plan.