Thursday, December 23, 2010

Udall: Ratifying New START is Critical to our National Security

Today, Mark Udall joined a bipartisan group of his U.S. Senate colleagues in approving ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. The treaty would resume mutual inspections of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, while limiting both nations to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers each.

Udall issued the following statement:

“The United States and Russia control over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arms between them. If we’re going to be seen as credible leaders, with a shared goal of reducing the threat nuclear weapons pose to the world, we have an obligation to verifiably decrease our own nuclear stockpiles to demonstrate that commitment. By ratifying this treaty, we are leading by example.”

Udall urged his colleagues to support the treaty in a speech on the Senate floor last week; the following are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Video of his speech is also available:

Mr. President, I rise to speak in strong support of the New START Treaty.

I want to remind my colleagues that arms control treaties are an integral part of this country’s modern history, premised on the shared belief that a world with fewer nuclear weapons is a safer world. Even as the Cold War raged, it was Ronald Reagan who committed America to "the ultimate goal of eliminating these weapons from the face of the earth."

This goal has animated numerous arms control agreements since then, and it underpins the New START treaty – an agreement I believe we cannot fail to ratify.

The dangers of nuclear proliferation have grown. While the threat of global nuclear war has receded, the risk of nuclear attack has increased, enabled by the spread of nuclear technology and danger of materials falling into the wrong hands.

I believe we cannot be seen as a credible leader – or as a nation strongly committed to meeting our non-proliferation obligations – unless we pursue further nuclear arms reductions ourselves. The United States and Russia have over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arms between us – and thus we have an obligation to verifiably decrease our nuclear stockpiles and reduce this primary threat to global and national security.

That’s why the New START Treaty matters. It establishes limits for U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons to levels lower than the 1991 START Treaty and the 2002 Moscow Treaty. These limits have been validated by our defense planners and ensure we have the flexibility to meet our security needs. The treaty also includes a strong verification regime, which Secretary Gates called the "key contribution" of the agreement.

As we debate this agreement today, we should not only consider the consequences of ratification, but also the consequences of failure. Because START I [START One] expired over a year ago, we currently have no treaty, and therefore, no constraints on Russia’s stockpile or verification of their weapons.

The choice facing U.S. presidents through the decades has been whether we are better off signing arms agreement with the Russians or pursuing an arms race. Historically, presidents from both parties and bipartisan majorities in the U.S. Senate have agreed that we are better served by agreements.

Today is no different. As U.S. Strategic Command’s General Chilton testified, without a treaty, Russia is not constrained in its development of force structure, and we have no insight into its nuclear program – making this “the worst of both possible worlds."

Failure to ratify this treaty would make the broad "resetting" of U.S.-Russian relations harder. The distrust it would engender would also reduce or even eliminate the possibility of further bilateral strategic weapons reductions. As former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft testified earlier this year, “the principal result of non-ratification would be to throw the whole nuclear negotiating situation into a state of chaos.”

But we need to remember that this treaty isn’t just about Washington and Moscow – it is also about the world community and our global relationships. Failure to ratify this treaty would signal to the world that America is not willing to constrain its own weapons arsenal, even as we ask other countries to restrict theirs or avoid joining the "nuclear club" altogether.

It would discourage multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation goals and hinder our ability to lead by example. It would make global cooperation on dealing with rogue states like Iran and North Korea more challenging, tying our hands at a time when the threat from those two countries is increasing.

Treaty opponents have tried to make the case that the dangers of ratifying the agreement outweigh the advantages of ratification. Mr. President, they are simply wrong.

They argue that the treaty limits our ability to develop missile defense capabilities. The head of the Missile Defense Agency argued the opposite – that the treaty actually reduces constraints on missile defense. And countless military and civilian leaders – including the former secretaries of state for the last five Republican presidents – have publicly stated that New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses.

Treaty opponents argue it inhibits our ability to maintain an effective and reliable nuclear arsenal. It’s true that this Administration inherited an underfunded and undervalued nuclear weapons complex. But the president understands that the nuclear experts and infrastructure that maintain our arsenal also help secure loose nuclear materials, verify weapons reductions and develop technologies that underpin our nuclear deterrent.

That’s why the president’s budget request provides $7 billion for these programs this year, a 10 percent increase over last year. New START would in no way limit these investments. And as treaty opponents know well, the President has offered an even more robust investment in modernization and refurbishment of our nuclear infrastructure over the next ten years, totaling $84 billion.

Mr. President, the importance of ratifying this treaty goes beyond politics. We cannot tolerate partisan sniping when we know that a lack of demonstrated bipartisan support could poison relations with Russia and our allies. And we cannot risk the loss of American leadership in the world that would ensue if we are perceived as too entangled in our own internal politics to ratify a strategic arms treaty that is clearly beneficial to our own security.

I know that some of my colleagues hope to amend this treaty – and in so doing, kill it, since any changes will require the Administration to start from scratch and reopen negotiations with the Russians. I urge them to reconsider and to think about what is at stake.

And I urge them and all my colleagues to listen to our military leadership when they tell us that this treaty is essential to our national security. As Senator Lugar pointed out yesterday in his eloquent statement, “Rejecting an unequivocal military opinion on a treaty involving nuclear deterrence would be an extraordinary position for the Senate to take.”

Let’s not allow this to be the first time in history that the Senate denies ratification to a treaty with overwhelming bipartisan support and the endorsement of the full breadth of our military and civilian leaders. I urge my colleagues to support this treaty and to support a safer world.