Mr. President, I rise today to explain why I voted against the New START Treaty. The United States Senate is the deliberative body of Congress. Our forefathers created the Senate so issues of this magnitude are thoroughly considered with all of the facts and with a careful eye on all possible future consequences. With previous treaties of this magnitude, the full Senate has been allowed over a full year to consider what the treaty would require of not only Russia, but also the United States. That hasn’t happened here, and it is a disconcerting trend.
The executive branches of both the Russian and the U.S. governments stated they will not take actions during the negotiations of this treaty that would be contrary to the spirit of the treaty. Both the Russian and U.S. governments recognize the treaty’s implementation will take time. The need to get this treaty right is paramount.
I am concerned that I haven’t had all of my specific questions answered about the treaty. Although members of the Foreign Relations Committee have had the opportunity to consider this treaty and ask many questions, the full Senate has not had the chance to have all of their questions answered. Forcing through a treaty without detailed scrutiny by the full Senate is not how our government should work.
Even with post-Cold War threats and adversaries, the nuclear balance between the United States and Russia remains a cornerstone to global non-proliferation. That’s why each member of the Senate must determine if he or she believes this treaty will make our nation safer. We can only do so if we have all the information about the treaty, and we can only make it better if we have the opportunity to fully amend the treaty.
During debate, we were repeatedly told that amending the treaty would kill it. That’s just not true. Going back and forth on treaties is not new. As with the original START, which was signed in 1991, the U.S. Senate did not accept the first version and required that a better treaty be created.
We offered amendments that would have simply required that Russia be more involved in the changes this treaty will require, stressing the importance to the Russian government to create a safe global atmosphere similar to the United States. Those amendments were rejected. Only two amendments, one about modernization of the nuclear weapons complex and one stating that missile defense will proceed, were accepted by unanimous consent. The other amendments were either not considered or failed. It is now up to the Russian Duma to consider the suggested changes by the Senate’s amendments and approve them or not. Both countries should be willing to work hard on this front and the best treaties, just like legislative bills, are those that are thoroughly considered by all involved with a willingness to comprehensively address all concerns and needs.
Beyond the issues of Senate processes, I have concerns about certain provisions in this treaty. It is impossible to fully consider this treaty without being able to review the full negotiating record, which has not been provided to all senators. Summaries have been provided, but summaries do not include the specific information on how the full implementation of this treaty will be done.
As a founding member of the Senate ICBM Coalition, I strongly believe that all three legs of the nuclear triad – missiles, submarines, and bombers - must be maintained in order to retain a highly reliable and credible deterrent nuclear force. This need is even greater as we potentially draw down some of our nuclear forces through the New START Treaty. I have worked with other members in the ICBM Coalition and with the Administration to encourage them to ensure the treaty does not harm the triad. I appreciated the information provided by the Administration on the treaty and the opportunity to meet on this issue during the floor debate. However, I remain deeply concerned about the implications the treaty will have on our country’s national security, particularly its potential effects on the current missile force structure. Without the specific information on how the Administration is going to implement the treaty and concrete assurances that the current missile force structure of 450 deployed and non-deployed silos be maintained, I remain skeptical of this agreement.
F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming helps the United States maintain one leg of the triad by operating part of the ICBM force. It is my obligation as a Senator from Wyoming to know what effects this treaty will have on the missile defense missions in my home state. I also respect and watch out for the service members in the 90th Space Command and 20th Missile Command who work hard to ensure our country has a strong missile defense. I have not yet been able to get a firm commitment from my Senate colleagues and the Administration on a concrete number of missiles that will be maintained under this treaty.
Furthermore, the treaty will require unilateral reductions from the United States with no similar requirements for Russia. Instead, the Russian government is actually given room to build up its nuclear forces with more modern capabilities.
Regardless of this agreement, the United States has not thoroughly addressed the modernization of our country’s nuclear capabilities. I have spoken with those involved in the treaty negotiations regarding U.S. modernization. I was told that the modernization efforts are in the works and the funding for these activities is planned. I support this more focused modernization approach. Part of the need for U.S. modernization is to address our nation’s tactical weapons capabilities. As currently written, the treaty will leave Russia in a 10-1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. This is disconcerting and modernization must be a priority.
I have concerns about verifiability as well. Former Secretary of State James Baker has described the treaty’s verification regime as weaker than its predecessor. If the United States is going to make reductions to our capabilities under this treaty, we should ensure that Russia is doing the same and following the treaty as closely as our country will. We should not settle for some verification - we must require full verification. Second best will do the United States no good in terms of intelligence and response capabilities.
Back in 2002, I traveled to Russia with the University of Georgia to talk about nonproliferation. At that time, I expressed serious concerns not only about Russia’s capabilities to secure their nuclear complex, but also to ensure that their nuclear scientists and their knowledge did not become available to bad actors like Al Qaeda. Ensuring that Russia continues to keep their capabilities and know-how secure is imperative and cannot be left to second best.
Our two nations may approach nuclear agreements with different goals, but the fact that the United States and Russian governments maintain a dialogue is a highly positive fact. We need and want the cooperation of our counterparts in Russia in both bilateral and multilateral efforts. This is highlighted in the United Nations Security Council discussions on nuclear weapons development in Iran, North Korea, and other actors.
We want and need to create a safer world while maintaining our defensive capabilities for ourselves and our allies. By forcing debate on this treaty during the lame duck session, I do not believe we were able to fully address all concerns in the detail that was warranted. We needed to be sure the treaty does what we expect it to do without any surprises. I am not convinced we will not see any surprises in the future. Thus, I voted against the New START Treaty.