As President Barack Obama gets back to business in Washington after his jaunt across Asia -- a trip of mixed results -- he reportedly promised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Suday that getting the Senate to ratify the START nuclear weapons treaty will now be a "top priority" of the Obama White House. Fox News reports:
"I reiterated my commitment to getting the START treaty done during the lame-duck session," Obama said, noting that Congress returns next week for its postelection session.
In talks with Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Obama also reiterated his support for bringing Russia into the World Trade Organization, calling Russia "an excellent partner."
Before the GOP brings their new recruits to Washington for the new legislative session that convenes in January, Obama will have a lame-duck session to tackle the START treaty and other contentious issues, including the extension of Bush-era tax cuts.
"We think the START treaty is important for what it does as an arms control treaty, but we also think that symbolically for this to linger on would begin to bleed into other aspects of U.S.-Russian relations," a senior administration official told The Wall Street Journal, describing the "full-court press under way right now" in the Senate.
The START treaty, which has been pending in the Senate for months,would reduce the limit on strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would set up new procedures to allow both countries to inspect each other's arsenals to verify compliance.
The treaty has drawn growing resistance, mostly from congressional Republicans. According to the Associated Press, the White House plans to add $4.1 billion in funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the proposal, hoping to draw enough GOP support to pass the treaty through the Senate.
The administration is scrambling to get enough Republican support in the Senate to ratify the New START treaty before the Democrats' majority shrinks by six in January. In a sign of the urgency of the administration's pitch, government officials traveled to Kyl's home state of Arizona to brief him on the proposal, the aide said. Officials also briefed Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
According to one White House aide, the Russian legislature is waiting for Obama to make progress in the lame-duck session before taking up the issue themselves.
In addition, President Obama assured the international community that Democrats' recent electoral defeats has not weakened his resolve:
In Seoul earlier, Obama maintained he has not been weakened by the electoral setbacks and used a sports analogy at one point to say he thought expectations are sometimes too high. Obama said he can't always hit a home run in these international summits and that even a single here and there is an achievement.
As has been reportedly over the weekend, Obama returned from the Asia trip with little show for it. The U.S. proposals for tougher Chinese currency regulation were rebuffed by G-20 partners and he failed to secure a new free-trade pact with South Korea, a long-time American ally in the region.
Next week, President Obama will travel overseas once again, this time to attend a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal.