Mr. President, we are in what we all understand are very difficult times--challenging in every respect and certainly with respect to the national security concerns of the country. As we speak, American soldiers are fighting a war in Afghanistan, winding down a war in Iraq, and our Nation has young men and women in harm's way in many parts of the world, engaged in a persistent challenge against global terrorism. Iran's nuclear program continues to advance, and North Korea is building a uranium enrichment facility and provoking the south on a regular basis with its military aggression.
Every single one of these is a complex challenge without any easy solution. But in the middle of all these challenges, the Senate has been given an opportunity to actually reduce the dangers our country faces. We have been given an opportunity set an example for the world. We have been given an opportunity to make the decision that would help to put greater pressure on Iran, on North Korea or on any other country that might be contemplating the notion of moving toward nuclear weapons. The Senate has been given the opportunity in the next days to express the leadership of our country with respect to moving in the opposite direction--away from nuclear weapons to greater controls, greater accountability, greater security and safety for our people.
With one simple vote before we leave here in the next days, we could approve the New START treaty and make America and the world more secure and take an important step forward in leadership as we express to the world our sense of responsibility with respect to the challenge of nuclear weapons. That is the opportunity we have. The question before every Senator is going to be whether we come here in these next days to do the business of the American people, to do our constitutional responsibility to advise and consent to a treaty negotiated by the executive department of the country.
New START is, quite simply, a commonsense agreement to control the world's most dangerous weapons and enhance stability between the two countries that possess over 90 percent of them. Just think of the statement it makes to those countries contemplating where Iran may be going when the countries that possess 90 percent of these weapons begin to dismantle these weapons and provide intrusive verification steps between us for how we will both behave. What an important statement at this moment in time with respect to Iranian behavior, with respect to North Korean behavior, and what a completely opposite, irresponsible decision it would be if the Senate just got bogged down in politics and walked away from this moment, unwilling to make that kind of decision that offers the leadership that I think the world and certainly the American people expect us to make.
This treaty will limit the number of nuclear weapons Russia can deploy to 1,550 warheads. What American who contemplates the nature of nuclear war and conflict and the potential damage of 1 weapon, 10 weapons, 20 weapons--what American does not understand the common sense of limiting Russia to 1,550 weapons pointing at the United States of America, some of them directly pointing at us even as I stand here and speak today?
This treaty will give us flexibility in deploying our own arsenal so we do not have to live by a strict restraint with respect to land or sea or air. We have flexibility in which weapons we want to put into which modality, and the verification provisions will significantly deepen our understanding of Russian forces. It has been almost a full year now since the original START treaty and its verification procedures expired. Every day since then, insight that treaty provided has been degrading.
New START does more than just restrain the weapons. It does more than just provide verification. It actually strengthens the relationship between the United States and Russia, and it enhances the global nonproliferation regime we signed up to years and years ago during the Cold War. It will improve our efforts to constrain Iran and, most important, to contain the loose nuclear materials we all fear could one day fall into the hands of terrorists and, if not result in a nuclear explosion, result in what we call a dirty bomb explosion where nuclear material is, in fact, scattered for want of the ability to create a nuclear weapon itself but with grave consequences of radioactive material doing enormous injury to large populations as a result. Already in the 7 months since we signed the New START, Russia has shown greater dedication to this renewed relationship. They have supported harsher sanctions against Iran. They have suspended the sale of the S-300 air defense system to Tehran.
The original START agreement which was the bedrock of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, a program whereby we are currently reducing nuclear warheads with Russia and containing the nuclear material--one of the great contributions to nonproliferation of modern times--that is the most successful nonproliferation effort to date in which any country has engaged. That would be threatened if this START agreement does not pass. It is strengthened if the START agreement does pass.
Without the START treaty, the New START treaty--I think nobody expresses concern greater than Senator Lugar. Senator Lugar, a Republican Senator, has shown enormous leadership on this issue for years and years now. He is respected all across the globe by those people who follow these issues. He has expressed the urgency of passing this treaty now, in this Senate, in this Congress, in this session.
In summary, the New START helps the United States to lead other countries so we help each other to address the lingering dangers of the old nuclear age, and it gives us a very important set of tools in order to combat the threats of the new nuclear age. Indeed, the single most significant question being raised at this point in time is not about the substance of the treaty within the four corners of the treaty; it is about language external to the treaty with respect to whether it somehow might limit our missile defenses. All of us acknowledge that those missile defense investments we have made to date will go a long way toward helping us to be able to address the threat of rogue states.
Let me just say as unequivocally as I know how that there is nothing in this treaty--there is no way this treaty--there is no way the policies of this administration--there is no way any language that is formal or binding between our nations or any other language, in fact, binds the United States or restrains us from pursuing missile defense. The answer with respect to any question on missile defense in this treaty is, no, it unequivocally does not restrain America's ability to develop and deploy missile defense. What is more, the evidence of that was very clear in Lisbon just the other day where the President of the United States, together with European countries, publicly announced the procedure by which we are going forward to deploy a missile defense in Europe in order to deal with the rogue threat problem.
Let me be even more clear. With respect to the question of any limitation of missile defense, the Secretary of Defense, appointed by President George W. Bush, says no, there is no limitation on missile defense; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says no, there is no limitation on missile defense; the commander of our nuclear forces says no, no limitation on missile defense; the Director of the Missile Defense Agency says no, there is no limitation on missile defense. Again and again, senior military leaders have said unambiguously that this treaty does not limit our missile defense plans. So, in my judgment and the judgment of most people I know who reasonably approach this treaty, there is no issue of missile defense with respect to this treaty.
Now we are beginning to hear people say that maybe we do not have time, in the context of the lameduck session, to deal with this question of American leadership, this constitutional responsibility that ought properly to be executed by the Senate that has done all of the work on this treaty. There is in that statement about lack of time, to some degree, a sort of question: Maybe there are a whole bunch of issues out there that just have not been resolved. Let me try to deal with that for a moment because I wish to make it very clear that the New START treaty's inspection and evaluation and analysis process by the Senate and appropriate committees has been extensive and exhaustive.
I wish to make clear what the record says about the time we have to consider this treaty. The Senate has been working on this treaty for the past year and a half, ever since the negotiations first began.
Starting in June of 2009, the Foreign Relations Committee was briefed at least five times during the talks with the Russians. Senators from the Armed Services Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate's National Security Working Group--all of them took part in those briefings. That was an obligation of this Congress. This Congress was present during the briefings with the negotiators, this Congress was privy to those negotiations as they went along--something a future Congress could not be because the negotiations are over. That underscores even more why this is the Congress that is the appropriate Congress to deal with this treaty. Roughly 60 U.S. Senators, through those committees I named, were able to follow the negotiations in detail, and individual Senators had additional opportunities to meet with our negotiating team, and a delegation of Senators even traveled to Geneva in the fall of 2009 to meet with the negotiators. I might add that included Senator Kyl, who has been one of the leading Senators on the other side involved in our discussions on this treaty. In other words, by the time the New START treaty was formally submitted to the Senate in May, the 111th Congress was already steeped in this, deeply steeped in this. No other Senate can now replicate the input we had into these negotiations.
Over the next 6 months after the Senate treaty was submitted, the Senate became even more immersed in the treaty's details through hearings, briefings, documents, and hundreds upon hundreds of questions that were submitted to the administration. Something like 900 questions were submitted to the administration, and all of them have been answered in full.
This Senate has done its homework on the New START treaty, and it is this Senate that has an obligation to complete the advice and consent on that treaty.
The fact is, there are also very important security reasons for us not to wait. Next Sunday, December 5, it will have been 1 year since the original START treaty expired--a whole year without on-the-ground inspections in Russia. Some people say it doesn't really make a difference whether it be a month or 2 months or whatever. I have to tell you something: When it comes to nuclear arsenals, every day matters. Without this treaty, we know
too little about the only arsenal in the world that has the potential to destroy the United States.
As James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said--and he does not come to us with an opinion that is clouded by politics; he doesn't come to us as a Democrat or a Republican; he comes to us as a professional whose task it is to defend the security of our country and who has a lifetime career wearing the uniform of our Nation, defending our country--he says of ratifying New START, ``I think the earlier, the sooner, the better.''
One of our most solemn responsibilities is this responsibility of advice and consent. We have been through a tough political year. The American people, we all understand--Senators keep coming to the floor and referring to the anger. It is real. It is there. We know the American people are angry. But they are angry because the business of the country does not seem to get done. They are angry because they see a partisan food fight, a political food fight taking place instead of the serious business of our Nation.
I believe other countries are watching us to see whether we can fulfill our constitutional responsibilities. Just how well does this democracy we sell all over the world actually work? If we can't make it work here at home and we can't deliver now, what kind of a message does it send about the power of the United States to leverage its values and its interests in the challenging world we face today?
Every Senator has an obligation to ask that question of themselves over the course of these next days: Are we a credible partner? Can other nations rely on us? What happens when the President of the United States negotiates a treaty, and he comes back here and the rest of the world sees that treaty bogged down, not in the substance of the treaty but in the politics of the day?
With this vote we can demonstrate our resolve and our leadership, and we can demonstrate something about the quality of our democracy. I think the schedule of the Foreign Relations Committee shows good-faith efforts which we have applied to live up to the Senate's responsibility.
After the treaty was signed in April, Senator Lugar and I worked together to set up a bipartisan review of the treaty. Never once did Senator Lugar or I approach this in a partisan way. I am grateful to Senator Lugar for his exceptional leadership and his willingness to stand up to some of the currents of the day and act on the interests of the country as he sees them.
Our primary consideration in the scheduling of witnesses before our committee was not whether they would support or oppose the treaty, we looked for expertise and we looked for experience. On April 29, the committee heard from Bill Perry, former Secretary of Defense, and Jim Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, and Director of Central Intelligence.
These men recently led the congressionally mandated Strategic Posture Commission. They both said we should approve the New START treaty. Dr. Schlesinger said it is--this is the quote of Dr. Schlesinger, who served a Republican President--``obligatory''--that is his word--``obligatory for the United States to ratify New START.''
Dr. Perry told us this treaty advances American security objectives, particularly with respect to nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. On May 18, the committee held a hearing with Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen. Admiral Mullen told us the New START treaty ``has the full support of your uniformed military.''
Secretary Gates made clear the treaty will not constrain U.S. missile defense efforts. He said:
From the very beginning of this process more than 40 years ago the Russians have hated missile defense. They do not want to devote the resources to it and so they try and stop us from doing it through political means. This treaty does not accomplish that for them.
That is what Secretary Gates said. The next day, former Secretary of State Jim Baker, who helped negotiate START I and helped negotiate START II, said that the New START ``appears to take our country in a direction that can enhance our national security while at the same time reducing the number of nuclear warheads on the planet.''
A week later, on May 25, Henry Kissinger recommended ratification of the treaty. He also cautioned us that rejection of the treaty would, in his words, have an ``unsettling impact'' on the international environment.
We also heard from two former National Security Advisers; Stephen Hadley, who served under George W. Bush, who told us the treaty is ``a modest but nonetheless useful contribution to the security of the United States and to international security''; and Brent Scowcroft, who served under George H.W. Bush, said he supports the treaty and he told us the New START does not restrict our missile defense plans. He said the Russian unilateral statement was simply an issue of ``domestic politics for the Russians.''
So we heard from some of the most eminent statesmen this country has produced, Republicans and Democrats, with decades and decades of public service. They said we should approve this treaty. In all, six former Secretaries of State, five former Secretaries of Defense, the Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission, and numerous other distinguished Americans have said it is important we approve New START.
On July 14, seven former heads of the U.S. Strategic Command and Strategic Air Command sent the committee a letter urging approval of the treaty. Indeed, some of the strongest support for this treaty has come from the military, which unanimously supports the treaty. On June 16, I chaired a hearing on the U.S. nuclear posture, modernization of the nuclear weapons complex, and our missile defense plans.
GEN Kevin Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for overseeing our nuclear deterrence, explained why the military supports the New START. He said:
If we don't get the treaty, A, the Russians are not constrained in their development of force structure, and, B, we have no insight into what they are doing. So it is the worst of both possible worlds.
Again, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command says not
ratifying this treaty is the worst of both possible worlds. And LTG Patrick O'Reilly, who heads the Missile Defense Agency, told us the New START does not limit our missile defense plans.
I have briefed the Russians, personally in Moscow, on every aspect of our missile defense development. I believe they understand what that is. And that these plans for development are not limited by this Treaty.
In other words, the Russians know what we intend to do and they signed the treaty, nonetheless.
On July 14, the committee had a closed hearing on monitoring and verification of treaty compliance with senior officials from the intelligence community. Obviously, that was a highly classified briefing. But every Senator is welcome to go down to the Office of Senate Security and read the transcript of that hearing, which I suspect will stay there and not appear in WikiLeaks.
If my colleagues want a public statement on verification, I would once again cite what James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said last week about ratifying the New START treaty:
I think the earlier, the sooner, the better. You know the thing is, from an intelligence perspective only--
This is General Clapper's perspective-- are we better off with it or without it? We're better off with it.
The committee also heard testimony from the directors of the Nation's three nuclear laboratories. As we all know, much of the debate on the treaty has focused on the resources that are needed to sustain our nuclear deterrent and modernize our nuclear weapons infrastructure, and it was important for our committee to hear from the responsible officials directly. They praised the Obama administration's budget request for this fiscal year. I suspect my colleague from North Dakota, in a few minutes, will have something to say about that additional funding for the nuclear modernization program and the plan of action that has been outlined.
I will simply say, again and again, the administration has bent over backward to work in good faith openly and accountably with Senator Kyl. I have been part of those discussions all