In the aftermath of World War II, Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenburg famously said that, “Politics stops at the water’s edge.”

What he meant was that the parties could jostle over domestic issues, but when it came to foreign policy the nation should speak with one voice.

Whether that was ever true, or whether it should be true, it’s clearly not true now, and issues of foreign policy are just as actively debated in Congress and on the campaign trail as domestic matters.

However, when strong bipartisan support emerges for a major international position, that should be a sign that it’s time for the politics to cool off.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and Russia is such an issue and deserves to be considered outside the boundaries of the current political campaign.

The treaty signed this year by the presidents of the United States and Russia needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate before it can take effect.


It would set legal limits on the number of nuclear weapons each of the two nations could deploy, and more importantly, create a system of data sharing and verification that would not exist without the agreement.

Support for the new START treaty has come from current and former members of the foreign policy establishment, dating back to the Kennedy administration.

Former secretaries of state from both parties, including Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell are on board. So are former Republican senators Howard Baker and William Cohen and Democrats Gary Hart and Sam Nunn.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has served under the last two presidents, said the treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership. It has been endorsed by seven former heads of the Strategic Air Command.

This level of support is impressive, but the treaty will need significant Republican support in the U.S. Senate to be ratified, and that will not be easy to achieve in the current political environment. Some opposition comes from those who want to deny the Obama administration an achievement in an election year.

Maine’s Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe should use their well-honed bipartisan instincts and find common ground on this issue for the good of the nation. This is a time when politics should indeed stop at the water’s edge.


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