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Lugar Makes the Case for New START

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor today:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of the New START Treaty.  We undertake this debate at a time when almost 100,000 American military personnel are fighting a difficult war in Afghanistan.  More than 1,300 of our troops have been killed in Afghanistan with almost 10,000 wounded.  Meanwhile, we are in our seventh year in Iraq, a deployment that has cost more than 4,400 American lives and wounded roughly 32,000.  We still have more than 47,000 troops deployed in that country.  Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are extremely high with no resolution to the problem of North Korea’s nuclear program.  We continue to pursue international support for steps that could prevent Iran’s nuclear program from producing a nuclear weapon.  We remain concerned about stability in Pakistan and the security of that country’s nuclear arsenal.  We are attempting to counter terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan, Pakistan, East Africa, Yemen, and many other locations.  We are concerned about terrorist cells in allied countries and even in the United States.  We remain highly vulnerable to disruptions in oil supplies due to national disasters, terrorist attacks, political instability, or manipulation of the markets by unfriendly oil producing nations.

Even as we attempt to respond to these and other national security imperatives, we are facing severe resource constraints.  Since September 11, 2001, we have spent almost $1.1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We are spending roughly twice as many dollars on defense today as we were before 9/11.  These heavy defense burdens have occurred in the context of a financial and budgetary crisis that has raised the U.S. government’s total debt to almost $14 trillion.  The fiscal year 2010 budget deficit registered about $1.3 trillion, or 9 percent of GDP.

Mr. President, all Senators here are familiar with the challenges that I have enumerated.  But as we begin this debate, we should keep this larger national security context firmly in mind.  As we contend with the enormous security challenges of the 21st Century, the last thing we need is to reject a process that has mitigated the threat posed by Russia’s nuclear arsenal. 

For fifteen years, the START Treaty has helped to keep a lid on the U.S.-Russian nuclear rivalry.  It established a working relationship on nuclear arms with a country that was our mortal enemy for four and a half decades.  START’s transparency features assured both countries about the nuclear capabilities of the other.  For us, that meant having American experts on the ground in Russia conducting inspections of nuclear weaponry.  Because START expired on December 5, 2009, we have had no American inspectors in Russia for more than a year.  New START will enable American teams to return to Russia to collect data on the Russian arsenal and verify Russian compliance.  These inspections greatly reduce the possibility that we will be surprised by Russian nuclear deployments or advancements. 

Before we even get to the texts of the New START Treaty and the Resolution of Ratification, members should recognize what a Senate rejection of New START would mean for our broader national security.   Failure of the U.S. Senate to approve the treaty would result in an expansion of arms competition with Russia.  It would guarantee a reduction in transparency and confidence-building procedures.  It would diminish cooperation between U.S. and Russian defense establishments.  It would complicate our military planning.

A rejection of New START would be greeted with delight in Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Burma. These nations want to shield their weapons programs from outside scrutiny and they want to be able to acquire sensitive weapons technologies.  They want to block international efforts to make them comply with their legal obligations.   Rogue nations fear any nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia because they know that it limits their options.  They want to call into question our own non-proliferation credentials, and they want Russia to resist tough economic measures against them.

If we reject the treaty it will be harder to get Russia’s cooperation in stopping nuclear proliferation.  It could create obstacles on some issues in the UN Security Council, where Russia has a veto.  It might also reduce incentives for Russia to cooperate in providing supply routes for our troops in Afghanistan.  It would give more weight to the arguments of Russian nationalists who seek to undermine cooperation with the United States and our allies.  It likely would require additional satellite coverage of Russia at that expense of their use against terrorists.  With all that we need to achieve, why would we add to our problems by separating ourselves from Russia over a treaty that our own military wants ratified?

Mr. President, our military commanders are anxious to avoid the added burden and uncertainties of an intensified arms competition with Russia.  They know such competition would detract from other national security priorities and missions.  That is one reason that they are telling us unequivocally to ratify this agreement.  They also have asserted that the modest reductions in warheads and delivery systems embodied in the treaty in no way threaten our nuclear deterrent…

The entire speech can be found at