Security Leaders Fan Out to Urge Treaty Vote, Change in Tone

September 13, 2010

The Senate returns to Washington this week with an important opportunity to demonstrate seriousness about U.S. national security by supporting the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in the Foreign Relations Committee this Thursday.  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.  Early this week, top former Cabinet and military officials will fan out to support prompt ratification – which would restore inspections and verification of Russian activities that has lapsed. After a summer of sharp partisanship, this treaty provides a bright spot for Senators who wish to demonstrate that they can put partisan politics aside and make our country more secure.

As the Senate returns, New START – and the intelligence on Russia’s arsenal it provides –remains an urgent national security priority.  Last week, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Madeleine Albright teamed up with former Senators Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel to once again voice their support for the New START accord.  They wrote in the Washington Post, “The Senate should promptly vote to approve the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) with Russia for one reason: It increases U.S. national security. This is precisely why Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared at the outset of Senate consideration of the treaty that it has “the unanimous support of America’s military leadership’…By the time the Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes Sept. 16 on whether to send the treaty to the Senate floor for ratification, it will have been more than 280 days and counting since the United States lost the ability to conduct on-site inspections, monitoring and verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. This ability will not begin again until the treaty is ratified.”

Lt. General Dirk Jameson, the former commander of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force has also strongly endorsed the treaty, saying, “It has been more than 250 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.” 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. Richard Lugar (R-IN) 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.  Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher further elaborated, “The urgency to verify the treaty is because we currently lack verification measures with Russia,” she said. “The longer that goes on, the more opportunity there is for misunderstanding and mistrust.”  [George P. Shultz, Madeleine K. Albright, Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel, 9/10/10. Dirk Jameson via USA Today, 9/10/10. Rose Gottemoeller via Arms Control Today, 9/10. Sen. Lugar, 8/3/10. Ellen Tauscher via The Cable, 9/10/10]

Today, nonproliferation “big guns” fan out to support passage of New START.  With the Senate returning to business this week, several of the nonproliferation world’s biggest names are fanning out to drive home the critical importance of passing New START. This morning, outgoing STRATCOM Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton will speak at a National Defense University Foundation event. Later, Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller will travel to Georgetown for a discussion that will highlight the urgent national security imperatives of passing New START.  And capping things off tonight, Sen. Lugar (R-IN) will speak at George Washington University, where he is expected to direct his message at Senators considering New START in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.

Each of these nonproliferation titans has spoken out strongly in support of the treaty’s passage over the last few weeks and months. Chilton recently testified that “our nation will be safer and more secure with this Treaty than without it,” adding later in his testimony that New START “will not constrain United States from deploying the most effective missile defense possible, nor impose additional cost or barriers on those defenses.” Gottemoeller spoke in August about the value of “ongoing transparency and predictability regarding the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals,” provided by the New START treaty, adding that it preserves the U.S.’ “strong nuclear deterrent that remains an essential element of U.S. national security and the security of our partners and allies.” And as Sen. Lugar explained, for all these reasons, it is crucial that the Senate pass the treaty: “If not [before the election], then whether it works out in December or not is no longer a matter of parliamentary debate, it’s a matter of national security.” [Gen. Chilton, 7/20/10. Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller, 8/12/10. Sen. Richard Lugar, via the Cable, 8/3/10]

After a bitterly divided and partisan summer, New START marks an opportunity for bipartisan support of a top national security priority.  Undersecretary Tauscher noted in an interview last week with The Cable, “As an American citizen I will say that the American people are clearly frustrated and frankly fed up with the kind of partisanship they see on many issues, and they certainly become disheartened and frightened when they see it on national security, where for decades we’ve had an agreement that these were issues that were too important and had too much to do with the safety and security of the American people to be caught up in a partisan debate.” New START provides Senators from both sides of the aisle with an opportunity to rise above partisan bickering and demonstrate that they are committed to strengthening U.S. national security.

Over the past months there has been an outpouring of bipartisan support for ratification of New START from military and national security experts such as Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley and James Schlesinger.  As Senator Kerry (D-MA), 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.”

As George Shultz, Madeleine Albright, Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel wrote in the Washington Post, “Given the national security stakes and the overwhelming support from the military and national security community, we hope that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will send the treaty to the floor with robust bipartisan backing and that senators will promptly ratify it with the kind of resounding margin such measures have historically enjoyed. Senate approval of New START would send a strong message to the world that the United States can overcome partisan differences and take concrete, practical action to reduce the nuclear threat and enhance our nation’s security.” [Ellen Tauscher via The Cable, 9/10/10. Senator John Kerry, 8/3/10. George Shultz, Madeleine Albright, Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel via Washington Post, 9/10/10.]

What We’re Reading

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that he was willing to limit, though not completely halt, construction in the West Bank settlements after a partial building moratorium expires later this month.

Japan freed 14 crew members of a Chinese fishing ship, nearly a week after their vessel and two Japanese patrol boats collided near disputed southern islets.

Turkish voters approved a sweeping package of constitutional reforms by a wide margin, handing a major victory to the Islamist-rooted government.

The Obama administration is set to notify Congress of plans to offer advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, the largest U.S. arms deal ever.

Tens of thousands of people are being held without charge in Iraq, sometimes suffering severe beatings in secret prisons, Amnesty International reported.

Indian forces killed 15 protesters and wounded scores of others in confrontations across Kashmir fueled in part by a report that a Quran was desecrated in the United States.

Mexico is doing some soul-searching as it celebrates its bicentennial anniversary.

With Sudan barely 100 days away from a referendum that is likely to split the country, the Obama administration has begun a multi-front diplomatic offensive built around incentives to keep Khartoum from obstructing the vote.

Senior Obama administration officials have concluded they need to step back from promoting American-style law enforcement as the main means of fighting corruption in Afghanistan.

Just two percent of debris in Haiti has been cleared since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Commentary of the Day

Fareed Zakaria argues that American overreaction to terrorism, which cultivates a climate of anger and fear, plays directly into the goals of Osama bin Laden.

Caroline Wadhams lays out why the U.S. should stick to the July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Paul Krugman writes that, in the current environment, Chinese purchases of  U.S. Treasury bonds don’t help us – they hurt us.

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