The simplest way to combat nuclear proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism is to destroy or lock down the material that can be used to make nuclear weapons. Since April 2009, when President Obama pledged to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, six countries have given up all such materials and enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium have been secured to make more than 120 nuclear weapons. While the Senate debated the New START agreement, and the country celebrated the holidays, two major operations secured materials in Ukraine and Serbia. Locking down materials fits with the New START signing and other 2010 achievements to bolster the momentum for global action to combat real, present threats to American security, including Iran, North Korea and nuclear terrorism.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty facilitates reductions in the strategic nuclear arsenals of the world's two largest nuclear powers and has earned overwhelming support from the military, national security experts and, just yesterday, thirty bipartisan national security leaders including Colin Powell. These same experts have also warned that a rejection of this treaty would put our national security at risk. Failure to ratify the agreement would, in the words of George H.W. Bush's National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft, throw our efforts to control nuclear threats into a "state of chaos."
Since the UN Security Council passed a new package of targeted sanctions against Iran in response to the country's continued intransigence on the nuclear issue, there has been a wave of developments which confirm that the Obama administration has achieved strong international backing for its dual-track Iran policy of engagement and pressure. Specifically, countries such as Canada and Australia, as well as the European Union, have approved their own independent targeted sanctions measures intended to isolate the Iranian regime. In addition, longtime Iranian-supporter Russia has also announced that it will not move forward with the sale of a sophisticated air defense system to Tehran, marking a powerful signal of Iran's growing international isolation.
Support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty has been overwhelming. Every expert witness who has been called to testify on the treaty has endorsed ratification of the accord. With the full support of the military leadership of the United States behind it, it is, in the words of former Republican Secretary of Defense and longtime nuclear expert James Schlesinger, "obligatory" for the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty. The men and women who are responsible for defending our country have repeatedly stated that the New START accord will not prevent the United States from deploying the most effective and cost-efficient missile defense system possible. Our top uniformed officers agree that the New START agreement actually reduces some of the constraints the previous START agreement placed on our missile defenses. In the future, it may even be possible to expand our capabilities by utilizing portions of Russia's missile defense system. Such cooperation would strengthen the ability of the United States to protect its allies and send the Iranian regime and other potential proliferators a clear message. Failure to ratify the agreement would, in the words of George H.W Bush's National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft, throw our efforts to control nuclear threats into a "state of chaos."
President Obama met today with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev in what was a highly anticipated summit, as the United States sought to steer U.S.-Russian relations back to a more productive focus on areas of mutual concern and interest.
Nuclear proliferation presents a grave threat to American and global security. Unsecured stockpiles of weapons and materials are vulnerable to terrorists who can steal or buy a weapon on the black market and use it on a civilian population.