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Corker Holds Fourth in Series of Hearings on US-Russia Relations

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following remarks during a hearing on the status of U.S.-Russia arms control efforts. The hearing was the fourth in a series examining U.S. policy toward Russia. The committee heard testimony from Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea L. Thompson and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg.

“First, I want to thank our witnesses for being with us today. We are fortunate to have such an experienced and distinguished panel.

“As our members know, this is the fourth in a series of hearings on Russia since July, with today’s hearing considering the current status of, and prospects for, arms control efforts.

“The current situation is not encouraging. Out of four agreements – New START, the INF Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty, and the Chemical Weapons Convention – we have significant problems with Russian compliance on three of them.

“It should come as no surprise to any of us that Russia has been cheating on its treaties.

“Vladimir Putin’s government has annexed Crimea; occupied parts of Georgia; interfered with elections, including our own; used chemical weapons to poison individuals on British soil; and even purportedly hacked U.S. utilities.

“Given that record, he’s not likely to let treaty commitments get in his way either.

“The question we need to ask is what are we going to do?

“Some argue that we should just walk away from the INF Treaty since Russia has been in blatant violation for several years now. Some think that is exactly what Putin hopes for. 

“The last time we deployed intermediate range missiles to West Germany, in 1983, a million people protested.

“That is exactly the kind of division that Russian information operations are designed to exploit and to intensify.

“As we discussed at our meeting on NATO, it is crucial that we remain unified with our European partners on defense and deterrence issues.

“On the Open Skies Treaty, we are at an impasse with the Russians. We haven’t had a flight all year. We can live without that data, but it hurts the 32 other countries that do not have the same alternative resources that we do.

“Even with New START, which has succeeded in its objectives so far, we should be realistic about our expectations of where we will be with Russia in 2021 when the treaty expires unless extended.

“Nevertheless, we need to be thinking carefully about the effects of new weapons and technologies on strategic stability between the U.S., Russia, and other nations.

“Putin has boasted about hypersonic glide vehicles, nuclear powered ballistic missiles, nuclear torpedoes, and Russian advances in cyber warfare, space, and artificial intelligence.

“Each of these developments introduces new uncertainties into the deterrence calculations of adversaries, and none of them is easy to address from an arms control, verification, and compliance perspective.

“But as we devote our own research and development into these areas, we must consider their potential to encourage risk-taking by any country with access to them.

“I hope our witnesses today can not only provide an assessment of the status of current agreements, but also offer us some assurance that the State and Defense departments are considering these emerging arms control challenges.

“I also hope we can gain a better understanding of any arms control discussions that took place at the Helsinki summit and what the prospects may be for future arms control agreements.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage from the hearing.