National Security Network

Generals Raise their Voices on New START

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Report 23 July 2010

Non-Proliferation New START treaty russia


The National Security Network is in Las Vegas, NV for the 2010 Netroots Nation conference.  This year, NSN will be hosting multiple panels and screenings focused on our national security and the nuclear agenda for new media audiences.  Thanks to the generous support of the Ploughshares Fund, NSN will be previewing Lawrence Bender's much anticipated film, Countdown to Zero, which opens today in D.C. and New York.  The film examines our nuclear security and identifies principled, pragmatic solutions to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons in an age of terrorism - a process that begins with the passage of the New START accord.

Over the past several months, Senators have methodically reviewed and scrutinized the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and its supporting documents.  Multiple congressional committees have held an extensive series of hearings, with two additional sessions slated for next week.  Throughout this process, Senators have heard from our nation's most respected military and national security experts from both sides of the aisle. Their message has been clear:  The United States Senate must ratify this treaty and should do so promptly. 

That the New START accord has the full support of the United States military underscores its importance.  For over forty years, the United States has pursued strategic stability through an arms control process that has been vigorously supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.  The New START Treaty both continues these established principles and tailors them to meet the security needs of the 21st century.  In today's post- Cold War, post- 9/11 world, we must protect against the dual threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.  With the combined nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia accounting for nearly 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, the first step to nuclear security begins with New START.   

Military and national security experts agree:  New START is essential to our national security.  This week a non-partisan group of decorated military officers and former national security officials added several dozen voices to calls for the ratification of the New START Treaty.  Members of the Consensus for American Security, including NSN's Senior Advisor, Major General Paul Eaton, met with General James L. Jones and other top White House officials to discuss the New START treaty.  "‘This meeting is the first critical step in raising our voices to support a national security strategy that will keep the country safe from 21st century threats.  It's time to commit to actions that will strengthen and modernize our nuclear security, and the first step is Senate passage of the New START treaty,' said Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson after the meeting."

The support for New START from the members of the Consensus for American Security echoes that from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who previously wrote, "The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America's military leadership-to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent.  For nearly 40 years, treaties to limit or reduce nuclear weapons have been approved by the U.S. Senate by strong bipartisan majorities. This treaty deserves a similar reception and result-on account of the dangerous weapons it reduces, the critical defense capabilities it preserves, the strategic stability it maintains, and, above all, the security it provides to the American people." [Gen. Jameson via Consensus for American Security, 7/21/10. Secretary Gates, 5/13/10]

Bipartisan agreement:  It is "obligatory" to ratify New START now.  Former Senator Tom Daschle summarized the challenge that lies before the United States Senate:  "To say that ratifying New START ought not to be controversial is an understatement.  Experts of all ideological stripes have argued the merits for its passage-including Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley, and James Schlesinger.  It has the unanimous support from our country's military.  And the first START-which we should all remember was ratified on the heels of the Soviet Union's dissolution, with a country that had been our singular mortal enemy for decades-was ratified in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 6."  Scowcroft said failing to ratify the treaty would throw international non-proliferation efforts into a "state of chaos," and former Senator Chuck Hagel called a failure to ratify the "worst possible outcome since World War II."

The timeframe matters, as NSN Executive Director Heather Hurlburt explains:  "Talking points have gone to Hill offices asserting that the 13 months between submission and ratification of START I in 1991-2 (Bush 1, Democratic Senate, whatever that's worth) should be the norm.  But something rather significant -- the breakup of the Soviet Union -- occurred after the treaty was signed and submitted, requiring negotiation of an addendum to the Treaty... INF and START I, and the first round of NATO expansion, were epochal, strategy-shifting documents that had taken many years to conceptualize and negotiate over harsh criticism and divides.  Yet Trent Lott, George Mitchell, and Harry Reid managed to lead the Senate through what its members seemed to think was sufficient debate in 10-20 weeks.  A document amending the CFE Treaty was approved by a Republican Senate in just five weeks (1997)."  [Sen. Daschle via CAP, 7/19/10. Scowcroft, 6/10/10.  Hagel via Foreign Policy, 7/19/10.  Heather Hurlburt, 7/21/10]

Partisan politics have no place here.  Daschle warned, "I hope that Senators stop to fully think through and study [the dangerous implications of rejecting this treaty] when choosing whether or not to support New START.  They would do well to remember what President Reagan said in 1984, ‘No matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the earth.'  25 years later, those obstacles are political.  I must emphasize that.  The obstacles to reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world, the obstacles to increasing this country's national security, the obstacles to continuing down the path President Reagan himself first cleared-they are entirely political.  The Administration has gone to great lengths to address specific concerns.  Those that were raised initially have now been answered definitively, largely during an extensive series of hearings in multiple congressional committees.  Yet some conservatives are now relying exclusively on absurd claims to try to delay or derail the treaty's ratification."

Kissinger told Senators two months ago: "In deciding on ratification, the concerns need to be measured against the consequences of non-ratification, particularly interrupting a [bilateral arms control] process that has been going on for decades, the relationship to the NPT, and to the attempt to achieve a strategic coherence. And so, for all these reasons, I recommend ratification of this treaty...In short, this committee's decision will affect the prospects for peace for a decade or more. It is, by definition, not a bipartisan, but a nonpartisan, challenge."  [Sen. Daschle via CAP, 7/19/10. Henry Kissinger, 5/25/10]

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