National Security Network

Heavyweights Throw Momentum Behind New START

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Report 2 December 2010



This morning Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell join a long list of military and national security leaders calling for the ratification of New START. Speaking yesterday at the White House, Gen. Powell, the former secretary of state, national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs who worked under three Republican presidents, unequivocally stated, "I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible."  And the directors of our nation's three national laboratories once again confirmed that they are "very pleased" with the administration's plan to ensure that our nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, secure and effective. 

As the secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents made clear, the accord has been thoroughly vetted and all substantive issues have been laid to rest.  They write, "we urge the Senate to ratify the New START treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev... The defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Missile Defense Agency - all originally appointed by a Republican president - argue that New START is essential for our national defense." 

Top Republicans urge ratifying New START.  Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell, secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents, write, "Republican presidents have long led the crucial fight to protect the United States against nuclear dangers. That is why Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush negotiated the SALT I, START I and START II agreements. It is why President George W. Bush negotiated the Moscow Treaty. All four recognized that reducing the number of nuclear arms in an open, verifiable manner would reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe and increase the stability of America's relationship with the Soviet Union and, later, the Russian Federation. The world is safer today because of the decades-long effort to reduce its supply of nuclear weapons."

"As a result, we urge the Senate to ratify the New START treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It is a modest and appropriate continuation of the START I treaty that expired almost a year ago. It reduces the number of nuclear weapons that each side deploys while enabling the United States to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent and preserving the flexibility to deploy those forces as we see fit. Along with our obligation to protect the homeland, the United States has responsibilities to allies around the world. The commander of our nuclear forces has testified that the 1,550 warheads allowed under this treaty are sufficient for all our missions - and seven former nuclear commanders agree. The defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Missile Defense Agency - all originally appointed by a Republican president - argue that New START is essential for our national defense."

Another powerful Republican, Howard Baker, also urged ratification of the New START treaty without delay. In a USA Today op-ed today, he writes, "Having worked on such treaties since the 1970s, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as minority and majority leader of the Senate, and as White House chief of staff under President Reagan, I believe this treaty should be ratified - and soon. President Reagan was famous for his adage about dealing with the old Soviet Union: ‘Trust but verify.' Since the last START treaty expired in December 2009, we've had no right to conduct inspections of Russian nuclear bases, and thus no way to verify what the Russians are doing with their nuclear weapon systems. For us veterans of the Cold War, that's an alarming fact and a compelling reason to ratify this New START treaty without further delay. But even for those whose experience is only with the new Russia, the same conclusion should be just as clear." [Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger and Powell, 12/2/10. Howard Baker, 12/2/10]

Lab directors assure senators our nuclear weapons complex is fully funded and will remain safe, secure and effective.  The directors of our country's three national laboratories-Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories- wrote to Senators Kerry and Lugar yesterday that they are "very pleased by the update to the Section 1251 Report, as it would enable the laboratories to execute our requirements for ensuring a safe, secure, reliable and effective" nuclear weapon stockpile..."

The administration has outlined a 10-year plan to spend $84 billion on the nuclear weapons complex-an unprecedented 20% increase above current spending levels. The lab directors confirmed, "In summary, we believe that the proposed budgets provide adequate support to sustain the safety, security, reliability and effectiveness of America's nuclear deterrent within the limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads established by the New START Treaty with adequate confidence and acceptable risk."

As Sen. Lugar noted yesterday, "This is not a political judgment.  The President and the Vice President are not saying this.  They did not request these views.  These are the nuclear weapons experts in the United States and these are their views.  They are telling us this plan gives them confidence that we can credibly modernize and maintain our nuclear weapons."  Sen. Lugar continued, "Now, we must all work to ensure funding for the plan.  As I have previously said, a first step in that direction is ratification of the New START Treaty." [Lab directors letter, 12/1/10. Sen. Lugar statement, 12/1/10]

"Do it":  Past treaties have moved in 2-5 days of floor time.  In 1992, it took five days of floor time for the Senate to approve START I.  In 2003, the Senate approved the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) after just two days of floor debate.  As Sen. Lugar has said, "I think when it finally comes down to it, we have sufficient number of senators who do have a sense of our national security. This is the time, this is the priority. Do it."  [Sen. Lugar via the Cable, 11/17/10]

What We're Reading

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Revelations about North Korea's expanded nuclear program are of "great concern," the U.N. atomic watchdog's chief Yukiya Amano said.

The police in Spain and Thailand arrested 10 people suspected of operating a counterfeiting network that provided fake European passports to terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda in order to smooth their entry into Western countries, the Spanish Interior Ministry said.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said she will send police with special training to a disputed area on the border with Nicaragua where Nicaraguan soldiers have set up a post.

A Chinese official said that his country's relationship with North Korea had survived "international tempests."

Israel revealed plans to build new homes on West Bank land it has annexed as part of its Jerusalem boundaries, a move likely to further hamper any resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

An opposition leader's office was attacked in the Ivory Coast, killing four.

Donors at a conference in Kuwait pledged $3.55 billion to develop eastern Sudan. 

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood withdrew from the second round of the country's elections.

Commentary of the Day

Paul Pillar writes that a sleight-of-hand is taking place in discourse about the Iranian nuclear program that also occurred in the selling of the Iraq War.

Spencer Ackermann argues we can deny Al Qaeda victories by staying calm and not overreacting to their attempts to terrorize us.

Roger Cohen says Wikileaks reveal American diplomats to be thoughtful, well-informed and dedicated servants of the American interest.