Nuclear Weapons

Senators on the New START Treaty

Now that President Obama and Russian President Medvedev are planning to sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in Prague on April 8, our campaign to press the Senate to ratify the treaty is taking off.

Senate ratification of the treaty will be critical. The New START agreement is an important first-step in strengthening U.S. nuclear security by reducing the bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, thereby helping to prevent accident launches and keep more nuclear weapons safely out of the hands of terrorists. Without ratification, the president’s efforts to build American leadership, by example, towards a world without nuclear weapons will be stalled. America’s credibility in working to stop nuclear proliferation would be badly damaged, because Senate refusal to ratify the treaty would lend those efforts an air of “do as we say, not as we do.”

We’re tracking where different senators stand on this treaty as their statements come out. Below are some early senatorial opinions on the treaty.

The day President Obama announced the completion of the new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, several key senators and members of Congress released statements in support of the agreement. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) applauds the Obama administration for achieving the settlement. He said:
“The administration took the time necessary to get a treaty that enhances our national security interests, and I look forward to considering it in the Senate this year. The new treaty will improve strategic stability between our two nations, which together possess 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. It will also show the world that we are serious about nonproliferation and strengthening our ability to push others to fulfill their own nonproliferation responsibilities.”
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appealed for bipartisan support in his statement:
“I know there has been a partisan breakdown in recent years, but we can renew the Senate’s bipartisan tradition on arms control and approve ratification of this new treaty in 2010. I know that can happen. This is a moment for statesmanship. As soon as the President sends the agreement to the Senate, we will appeal to all our colleagues to set aside preconceptions and partisanship and consider the treaty on its merits. We can’t squander this opportunity to reset both our relations with Russia and our role as the world leader on nuclear nonproliferation. This is a major commitment by both countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and an important step in solidifying our relationship with Russia. Let’s get it done.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), welcomed this treaty as an “addition to our continuing work to strengthen U.S. national security.” He further added that:
“ The agreement will send a clear message to the world, and should assist President Obama in his efforts to impose stiffer punishments on nations accused of violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty when he meets with that treaty’s signatory nations in May.”
Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, views the treaty as an important accomplishment:
“This is a historic day for the United States, Russia, and all countries and people who hope for a more secure and peaceful world, free of the threat of annihilation from nuclear weapons.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee also cheered the president on reaching this agreement with Russia.
“I congratulate the President on reaching agreement on the most significant arms-reduction treaty in decades. This is a major step toward realizing President Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world, a vision shared by a predecessor, President Ronald Reagan.[…] This treaty makes significant reductions to the numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, will renew verification arrangements that would otherwise be unavailable, and provides a major tangible result since the President reset relations with Russia.  I look forward to seeing the details of the treaty in the weeks to come.  The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold hearings on the treaty provisions to determine whether the verification measures are sufficient to monitor treaty compliance.  This will be among the most scrutinized issues in ratification process, and I intend to make sure the Intelligence Community is capable and adequately resourced to carry out its responsibilities.”

Former Secretary of State George Shultz, along with former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Senator Sam Nunn have unanimously given their support toward this agreement.

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, (D-NV) released his own statement, commending the president for being successful in making such a step.

“Nevadans and Americans are concerned about the risk of nuclear terrorism and rogue proliferators, and want leaders in Washington to ensure America’s safety.  That’s why I commend President Obama for reaching an important agreement with Russia to sign a new START Treaty in April.  Not only will this treaty reduce the amount of Russian nuclear weapons by hundreds, but it comfortably maintains America’s nuclear capabilities so that we can keep America secure and deter our adversaries.  I am also pleased that the Administration was able to negotiate this treaty without constraining America’s missile defense system in any way.  In addition, this treaty is accompanied by investments of $5 billion over 5 years in America’s nuclear security enterprise to ensure that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective. This represents the sound global leadership that President Obama promised to deliver to protect our nation.  Historically, these treaties have received broad bipartisan support, and I am confident that this treaty will achieve similar support from both sides of the aisle.  I look forward to working with our key Committee Chairs, Senators Kerry, Levin and Feinstein, to bring this proposal to the Senate floor.”
Senator Reid does not have to worry about the nuclear deterrent remaining secure and effective, as the eminent scientific advisory group JASON has found that the stockpile is just fine:
“Tasked by the House Armed Services Committee to study the Life Extension Programs (LEPs), a program to extend the lifetime of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, the unclassified version of the report (JSR-09-334E) stated:
JASON finds no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today’s deployed nuclear warheads….
Lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date.”
The funding increase of $5 billion actually does little to contribute to keeping the stockpile safe, secure, and effective, as much of it will go to expanding our country’s ability to produce more nuclear warheads in the future. As Peace Action West noted when the FY 2011 budget was released:
“Though the president has often spoken of the long-term national security goal of achieving a nuclear weapons free world, this budget sends the wrong message to the international community by investing so heavily in the nuclear weapons complex. Most disturbing is the fact that facilities that would enable the U.S. to increase its capacity to create new nuclear weapons in the future received large funding increases. Funding for the dismantlement of nuclear weapons actually decreased.”
The administration is hopeful of achieving ratification, having expressed confidence that the treaty will get bipartisan support. However, we need to consolidate our efforts if we are to see any positive results.

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