During North Dakota’s Senate campaign, Heidi Heitkamp’s acceptance of big money from the anti-nuke activists at the Council for a Livable World (they were Heitkamp’s #2 source of campaign contributions) was a big issue. But Republicans mostly hit Heitkamp on what her loyalty to that group might mean for her support for North Dakota’s military bases.
Heitkamp and Democrats argued that she’d never vote to downsize or close those bases, and that’s almost certainly true. Supporting military bases as economic development is good parochial politics, and whatever else Heitkamp may be, she’s a savvy politician.
But what about votes that don’t have anything to do specifically with North Dakota’s military bases? For instance, nuclear disarmament is shaping up to be a priority of President Obama’s second term:
President Barack Obama, who has advocated eliminating all U.S. nuclear weapons, is close to approving a formal strategy that calls for deep cuts in nuclear forces beyond the 1,550 warheads mandated under the 2010 New START accord.
According to an arms control official, Obama earlier this month was ready to sign a new blueprint for the deep nuclear cuts as part of the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study that has been ready for his signature for months but has been delayed until after the election. Officials familiar with that study say a draft included a recommendation to cut U.S. warhead levels to as low as 700 warheads.
The International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) report, signed by its chairman, former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, also recommends speeding up reductions or amending the New START treaty to include cuts in both tactical and strategic warheads.
The report also suggests that further nuclear cuts can be made through “parallel” U.S. and Russian reductions or even cuts by the United States alone.
President Obama seems intent on reducing America’s nuclear stockpiles with or without treaties requiring other nuclear powers to disarm as well. Informal agreements may be struck, but without a treaty, verification that other nation’s are following through on their disarmament is all but impossible.
The question is, how will Heitkamp vote on this disarmament? Given the big-money support she got from some of the loudest advocates for nuclear disarmament, I don’t think we need to guess. And remember, this disarmament may have an indirect impact on the nuclear missions here in North Dakota, something Heitkamp promised she wouldn’t harm.
I don’t like the idea of protecting military bases just for the sake of economic development. Military spending, and base deployments, should be about national security not local economies. That said, it seems North Dakotans elected in Heitkamp someone who is almost assuredly going to be a consistent vote for a weakened America in terms of nuclear weapons.