(CNN) – Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, is hitting back at Republican Mitt Romney's recent comments urging senators to vote against ratifying an arms reduction treaty with Russia, saying the former presidential candidate is merely seeking to score political points.
"Even in these polarized times, anyone seeking the presidency should know that the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing," Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes in a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday. "Sadly, former governor Mitt Romney failed that test in arguing that ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia would be a mistake."
"I have nothing against Massachusetts politicians running for president," Kerry adds. "But the world's most important elected office carries responsibilities, including the duty to check your facts even if you're in a footrace to the right against Sarah Palin. More than that, you need to understand that when it comes to nuclear danger, the nation's security is more important than scoring cheap political points."
Kerry's op-ed comes a day after one authored by Mitt Romney, also in the Washington Post, in which the former Massachusetts governor called the treaty President Barack Obama's "worst foreign policy mistake yet."
"By all indications, the Obama administration has been badly out-negotiated," wrote Romney, widely believed to be considering another bid for the White House. "Perhaps the president's eagerness for global disarmament led his team to accede to Russia's demands, or perhaps it led to a document that was less than carefully drafted."
Romney's foray into a hot-button international issue may be another sign the former presidential candidate is gearing up to challenge Obama in 2012 and seeking to expand his foreign policy portfolio. While the Massachusetts Republican and former businessman has been a constant critic of Obama's economic policies over the past two years, his commentary on international issues has been noticeably less pronounced.
The agreement – forged by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last April - builds on a previous agreement that expired last December. It cuts the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by about a third. It remains unclear when the Senate will vote on ratification.
More than 30 national security figures from multiple administrations and both parties expressed their support of the treaty late last month. But the treaty's detractors, including Romney, say the proposal forces the United States to seek Russian approval with respect to its own nuclear defense decisions.
But Kerry maintains the agreement will not constrict America's ability to make its own national security decisions.
"On the contrary, it will improve our national security by reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia, and by improving relations with our old adversary," he writes. "Ratification will also show the international community that we are honoring our commitments on nonproliferation."