National Security Network

Now is the Time to Ratify New START

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Report 7 December 2010

Non-Proliferation New START nuclear weapons


With today's endorsement from Condoleezza Rice, every living former secretary of state now supports New START.  Last week, the secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents laid out the case for ratification, with Colin Powell unequivocally stating, "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."  With the unanimous backing of the United States military leadership and overwhelming bipartisan support, now is the time to ratify New START.  This past weekend marked the one-year point of the expiration of the original START accord - meaning it has now been 367 days since we've had U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia to inspect its nuclear facilities.  New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses; it is accompanied by unprecedented long-term funding to ensure our nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure and effective; and it will reinstate a stringent verification regime that our military planners say is essential.  Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, has urged the Senate to support America's 27 NATO allies and ratify New START.  The world is waiting; it is time for the Senate to act.

Secretary Rice, NATO secretary general add their voices to support for New START.  In today's Wall Street Journal, Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor and secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, writes, "The treaty is modest, reducing offensive nuclear weapons to 1,550 on each side-more than enough for deterrence. While the treaty puts limits on launchers, U.S. military commanders have testified that we will be able to maintain a triad of bombers, submarine-based delivery vehicles and land-based delivery vehicles. Moreover, the treaty helpfully reinstates on-site verification of Russian nuclear forces, which lapsed with the expiration of the original Start treaty last year. Meaningful verification was a significant achievement of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and its reinstatement is crucial... With the right commitments and understandings, ratification of the New Start treaty can contribute to this goal. If the Senate enters those commitments and understandings into the record of ratification, New Start deserves bipartisan support, whether in the lame-duck session or next year."

Another endorsement came from Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of NATO.  Rasmussen writes in the International Herald Tribune that, "NATO's Lisbon summit meeting last month made historic strides to increase the security of all NATO allies. We reinforced our commitment to collective defense. We renewed NATO's strategy and vision. We also revitalized our relationship with Russia. There is another step that would contribute directly to increased security in Europe: ratification of the New Start treaty."  Rasmussen continued: "Some may argue that better relations with Russia imply less security for some of our allies, but that is zero-sum thinking. I believe the contrary is true: Greater trust between NATO and Russia means a stronger sense of security for all members of NATO.  The New Start treaty that is now before the U.S. Senate would also contribute to improved security in Europe. But don't take my word for it - take the word of the allied leaders, from old and new members alike, who in Lisbon expressed their unanimous support for ratification of the treaty."  Rasmussen adds that, "[t]he New Start treaty would also pave the way for arms control and disarmament initiatives in other areas that are vital to Euro-Atlantic security." [Condoleezza Rice, Wall Street Journal, 12/7/10.  Anders Fogh Rasmussen, 12/7/10]

Rice and Rasmussen join a long list of bipartisan national security experts in support of New START.

Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell. "[W]e 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." [Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger and Powell, 12/2/10]

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. "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." [Secretary Gates, 5/13/10]

Seven former commanders of the United States Strategic Command. "We strongly endorse its early ratification and entry into force." [STRATCOM Letter, 7/14/10]

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "In our effort to provide a wide range of views, we heard from high-ranking members of the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 administrations. We also heard from the directors of the nation's three nuclear weapons laboratories, and received written testimony from the man who oversaw them for President George W. Bush. We had a closed hearing with high-ranking intelligence officials. And we questioned the Treaty's negotiators on multiple occasions, in open and closed sessions... Overwhelmingly, these witnesses supported timely ratification of the New START Treaty." [Senator Kerry, 8/3/10]

Howard Baker, former Republican senator from Tennessee. "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." [Howard Baker, 12/2/10]

New START has been thoroughly vetted and is ready to be ratified now.  The resolution of ratification, which passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with strong, bipartisan support, addresses the issues that were raised throughout the extensive hearing process.  As Sen. Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently explained during a floor speech, the resolution of ratification clearly provides the necessary "caveats."

"At 28 pages-and including 13 conditions, 3 understandings, and 10 declarations-it addresses every serious topic we have discussed over these months. If a senator is worried about the treaty and missile defense, condition (5), understanding (1), and declarations (1) and (2) address that issue. If you are worried about modernizing our nuclear weapons complex and strategic delivery vehicles, condition (9) and declaration (13) get at those concerns. Conventional prompt global strike capabilities? See conditions (6) and (7), understanding (3), and declaration (3). Tactical nuclear weapons? It's in there. Verifying Russian compliance? It's in there. Even the concern raised about rail-mobile missiles has been fully addressed.  In short, the resolution is the product of careful bipartisan collaboration intended to address each of the concerns that has been raised."

The full Senate can discuss these matters further on the floor.  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.  It is the duty of Congress to conduct America's business.  The Senate should ratify New START now.  [John Kerry, 11/29/10]

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