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– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Nuclear Deja Vu All Over Again: "Daisy Girl" Ad Revived to Move the Senate to Act on New START
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Arms Control NOW

By Daryl G. Kimball

A 21st Century version of Lyndon Johnson's 1964 "Daisy Girl" campaign ad has been produced by the American Values Network in an effort to urge the Senate to provide its advice and consent for ratification of New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Like its predecessor, the new commercial features a young girl plucking petals off a daisy. Her petal counting shifts to a missile launch countdown with the camera zooming into her eye to show a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion.

The ad comes on the eve of a new push for New START approval during the Senate's post-election session, which begins Nov. 15. The treaty would require Russia and the United States to trim their nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 strategic warheads each -- 30 percent below current limits.

This week, President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and the Defense Department underscored the importance of Senate action on New START this year. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and former defense and national security leaders from both parties have expressed their support for the treaty.

"This treaty is absolutely critical to the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal, our knowledge of Russian nuclear capabilities and U.S. national security overall," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Wednesday. "We're advancing it at this time and pushing for ratification because we need this. And we need it sooner, rather than later. There's no sense in putting off what we need now to the next Congress," Morrell said.

Morrell said urging action to be taken soon doesn't mean Pentagon officials think ratification stands a better chance in the current Congress than it would with the next Congress. "We're advancing this now because we think it is the right thing to do. It is what's needed by our country at this time," he said.

Prompt ratification of New START is the only way to close the "verification gap" that has emerged since the original START expired on Dec. 5, 2009. New START would establish an updated system of information exchanges and enhanced on-site inspections that would provide more information on the status of Russian strategic forces than was available under START.

If the Senate fails to act on the treaty, it would block the re-establishment of an effective U.S.-Russian inspection and monitoring system, enable Russia to maintain a far larger strategic nuclear arsenal, undermine U.S. nonproliferation leadership, and jeopardize U.S.-Russian cooperation to contain Iran's nuclear program and improve nuclear materials security programs that are needed to prevent terrorists from acquiring the bomb.

"We've made great progress when it comes to sending a message to Iran that they are isolated internationally, in part because people have seen that we are serious about taking our responsibilities when it comes to nonproliferation," President Obama said after a Cabinet meeting at the White House Wednesday. "And that has to continue."

The Senate must now put petty partisan politics aside and put U.S. national security first by approving the treaty without further delay.

See the full commercial below, and contact your Senators here.