Skip to content

Chairman Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on Future of Arms Control Post-INF Treaty

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a hearing on "The Future of Arms Control Post-Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty," with testimony from Andrea L. Thompson, under secretary for arms control and international security at the Department of State, and David J. Trachtenberg, deputy under secretary for policy at the Department of State.

Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery:

"We meet today to discuss the current state of arms control and the challenges the United States faces moving forward.    Arms control is only successful when treaties are honored, and confidence is only achievable when countries behave in a responsible and transparent way.
"It is in this context that I commend the administration for its actions regarding Russia’s blatant violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).  I also want to thank our NATO allies for their strong support for the U.S. decision to withdraw. For the past several years, the Russian government has systematically violated the INF Treaty and deployed systems that undermine the stability that the treaty helped create. Violations of treaty obligations must have consequences.
"Russia’s violations are part of a pattern of aggressive and dishonest behavior that must inform any future arms-control efforts. We have had four agreements with Russia – New START, the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty, and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russian compliance is problematic across the board.
"On Open Skies Treaty, Russia continues to illegally limit our ability to overfly key military areas. Russia changes the subject when it comes to the Chemical Weapons Convention; they have yet to take responsibility for killing a British citizen with an undeclared nerve agent on British soil last year, or for their ally, Bashir Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.
"Given this behavior, the U.S. needs to consider more carefully than ever how we engage Russia regarding any treaty.
"Russia is modernizing and growing the size and capacity of its nuclear forces.  Putin’s arsenal of non-strategic nuclear weapons is being revamped to make it more useful not just for deterrence, but for coercion in support of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy.
"Russia currently possesses roughly 2,000 such tactical nuclear warheads, and refuses to share vital information on these weapons, which creates an unacceptable level of ambiguity about these capabilities.
"Russia also claims to be enhancing their strategic systems, developing a new high-yield warhead, and new delivery systems that can carry multiple warheads.  Why would Russia build a new ballistic missile that can carry more warheads than allowed by New START?
"In fact, Russia’s modernization is almost 70 percent complete. By comparison, U.S. modernization efforts will not begin to have substantial impact for 15 years.
"Even further, Russia is developing new systems like a nuclear underwater drone, a nuclear armed intercontinental-range cruise missile, and air-launched cruise missiles.  These systems should be limited by New START, but Russia rejects that argument.
"These improvements present significant threats to strategic stability for the United States and our allies.
"Going forward, it is important for Putin to understand that we will not allow these actions to go unchallenged, and that alliance unity on these topics remains strong. 
"At the same time, the world has changed in the past decade, and U.S. policy must recognize China’s increasingly aggressive pursuit of regional hegemony and challenge to U.S. interests.  China’s growing capabilities and its even greater lack of transparency create uncertainty about Chinese intentions in the Pacific and raise important questions about the role of U.S. extended nuclear deterrence in the region
"Reports indicate China is on track to double its nuclear stockpile over the next decade. Last year, they launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined. More troubling is China’s plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, but constantly refuse to even discuss arms control.
"This threat is real, and I am disappointed by those who argue that including China in arms control discussions is a “poison pill” to new agreements with Russia.  The opposite is true.  A responsible approach to arms control must account for all nuclear threats to the United States, and it is an indisputable fact that Russia is no longer the only nuclear threat to the United States and global stability.
"Arms control is a critical part of addressing these threats, but a strong, modern U.S. nuclear deterrent is also essential to strategic stability. As we consider new approaches to arms control, I urge Congress to fully fund, and the administration to vigorously implement, all programs needed to modernize our nuclear forces.
"In closing, I repeat that the challenges to arms control emanate not from the U.S., but from the numerous and continuing Russian violations, from growing Russian and Chinese capabilities, and from China’s unwillingness to even discuss these topics. Arms control is not an end in and of itself, and cannot protect the United States if our treaty partners refuse to abide by their treaty obligations.
"I thank our witnesses for joining us today, and look forward to hearing their clear-eyed assessment of the current status of these issues, and the administration’s views on future approaches.

"With that, I will turn it over to Ranking Member Menendez for his opening remarks."

Witness testimony is available on, as is an archived recording of the full hearing.