New START Moves Forward
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took an important step today in ensuring the security of the American people by approving the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and sending a resolution of advice and consent to the full Senate. After a bitterly divided and partisan summer, Senators rose above the bickering and showed commitment to a core U.S. national security priority – reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons. New START has overwhelming support from our nation’s most respected military and national security leaders, who all agree that the Senate must act quickly to reinstate the monitoring and verification provisions that have kept our country safe for so many years. As Connect U.S. Fund president and former UN Ambassador Nancy E. Soderberg announced, “Today’s vote is an important step forward in making us all safer. It’s a smart vote in our national security interest. I urge the full Senate to ratify it as soon as possible.”
With a bipartisan vote, the New START accord moves forward. Under the leadership of Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN), a bipartisan majority voted in favor of the New START accord and sent a resolution of advice and consent to the full Senate for its consideration. In a last minute show of support, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) joined Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) in voting for the resolution. This marks an important step in making America safer. The United States and the Russian Federation hold nearly 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons. The treaty will reduce Russian and U.S. arsenals, restore and strengthen the verification regime that allows U.S. inspectors to monitor Russian nuclear weapons and facilities, thereby ensuring strategic stability between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. It also strengthens U.S. leadership for progress on other critical nonproliferation efforts, like reducing tactical nuclear weapons.
Strong, bipartisan support for New START from our nation’s top military and national security leaders. Over the past several months there has been an outpouring of bipartisan support for ratification of New START. Secretary Gates confidently stated, “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.” Seven former Commanders of the United States Strategic Command also voiced their support saying, “We strongly endorse its early ratification and entry into force.” As Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outlined in a letter to his fellow committee members: “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.”
New START is in line with past strategic arms control agreements that have passed the Senate on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis. The original START Treaty was approved by a vote of 93 to 6; the START II Treaty was approved 87 to 4; and the Moscow Treaty was approved 95 to 0. The New START accord deserves similar approval. [Secretary Gates, 5/13/10. STRATCOM Letter, 7/14/10. Senator John Kerry, 8/3/10]
With bipartisan support, the time to ratify New START is now. Quick ratification of the treaty is a national security priority. Lt. General Dirk Jameson, the former commander of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force has strongly endorsed quick ratification of the treaty, saying, “It has been more than  days and counting since the U.S. lost access to the critical intelligence we get from on-site inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. In fact, these critical verification procedures will cease altogether unless the Senate acts to ratify the New START Treaty. Without prompt Senate action, American national security will be at risk.” Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher and James Miller, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy wrote today in Politico, “If the Senate approves the treaty – a two-thirds vote is required – we will be able to regain and improve upon our ability to verify what Russia is doing with its nuclear arsenal. Without New START, our knowledge of Russia’s nuclear forces is likely to erode and the risks of misunderstandings and miscalculations will grow. Worst-case assumptions are then likely to fuel military planning in both countries, increasing costs and decreasing trust.”
Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation and chief U.S. negotiator for the New START accord, Rose Gottemoeller, explained in Arms Control Today that, “There is no substitute for on-site inspections. They provide not only the ‘boots on the ground’ presence to confirm Russian data declarations, thus helping to verify compliance with treaty obligations, but also insights into Russian strategic forces located at those facilities. Simply put, the United States is more secure and safer when our country is able to gain a better understanding of the Russian strategic arsenal.” The ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Lugar explained last month that “The problem of the breakdown of our verification, which lapsed December 5, is very serious and impacts our national security,” Lugar said. Former Senators Sam Nunn and John Warner wrote today in Politico that “The treaty’s provisions for data exchange and on-site inspection is likely to provide valuable information on Russian nuclear capabilities that we would not have otherwise. It is also likely to increase transparency and confidence on both sides – improving predictability, stability and security…The American public can be confident that this treaty enhances our national security.” [Dirk Jameson via USA Today, 9/10/10. Ellen Tauscher and James Miller, 9/16/10. Rose Gottemoeller via Arms Control Today, 9/10. Sen. Lugar, 8/3/10. Sam Nunn and John Warner, 9/16/10]
What We’re Reading
Senior State Department and American military officials are deeply divided over the pace and scale of military aid to Yemen.
Egypt’s leader says he has urged Israel to curb West Bank settlement construction for three more months to give peacemaking a chance.
A row over France’s crackdown on Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria looks set to dominate a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
An anti-immigrant party that “makes the Tea Party look quaint” is becoming a new power broker in Italy.
President Obama will meet with two of Sudan’s leaders next week at the United Nations, in the first such contact of his presidency.
A decision to close more than 1,000 polling centers for voting in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections will effectively disenfranchise 1.5 million Afghans.
Cambodia’s UN-backed genocide tribunal formally indicted the four top surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The Obama administration is moving to take a harder stance on the Chinese government’s trade and currency policies, with anger toward China rising in both political parties ahead of midterm elections.
North Korea has proposed holding working-level military talks with rival South Korea, the Yonhap news agency reported, in another sign of improving relations on the peninsula.
Pope Benedict has said he wants to “extend the hand of friendship” to the whole of the UK during his visit.
Commentary of the Day
Bruce Ackerman poses the question: What would happen if the Tea Party took over an Oval Office that has grown dangerously powerful?
Jimmy Carter argues that North Korea wants to make a deal.
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