LISBON, Portugal (CNN) – Several nations once in the shadow of the Iron Curtain have a message for Republicans in Congress: Don't stop New START before it starts.
Making their appeal on behalf of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, the foreign ministers of Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Lithuania crashed a Saturday press conference by a senior U.S. administration official about talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. While President Barack Obama has said ratifying the treaty should be a top priority for Congress, key Republican senators have said they don't think a vote on it should be held before the new Congress convenes in January.
Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen said she spearheaded the media blitz to "make the Republican Party aware of how important this is."
"If (New) START is not ratified, it will have a real impact on European security," she said. "We hope we can sign it as soon as possible."
As if to give her group extra street cred, Espersen said she was the chairman of the Conservative Party of Denmark.
"Nobody can ever accuse me of being soft on security," she said.
"We're all conservatives," Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi quipped.
Martonyi added that Hungary has a "very special experience with Russia, and also a special geographic location."
"We advocate ratification of START," he said. "It is in the interest of my nation, of Europe and most importantly for the trans-Atlantic alliance."
Demark and Norway are long-time members of NATO, while the others represented Saturday are ex-Soviet bloc states who have joined in recent years.
The group said the Obama administration did not ask them to make such a statement. But Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, who visited Washington last week, said he discussed the treaty with Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and New START holdout who has argued the treaty needed more discussion before passage.
Although some Republican opponents of the treaty have argued Obama has sold out former Soviet republics with a treaty that leaves them vulnerable, Azubalis said his country saw the treaty as a necessary "prologue, an entrance" for broader discussions with Russia about other "more dangerous" nuclear arms in Europe.
"(New) START is not just the key to security, it is key to the new strategic concept of NATO, which reaches out in partnership to other countries," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, adding that not approving the treaty would be a "missed opportunity for all of us."