Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

By:  George Voinovich
Date: Dec. 21, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the Senate's deliberation of the New START treaty and the treaty's implications for our friends and allies in Eastern and Central Europe and, more importantly, the national security of the United States.

On November 17, I came to the Senate floor to discuss my concerns about the treaty and the President's reset policy. Following my remarks, I received a significant amount of feedback--some positive, some critical--and throughout my deliberations on the treaty, my intention was to contribute to advancing this important debate in a meaningful way.

First, I wish to make it clear I remain concerned about the direction of Russia in terms of its commitment to human rights and an effort to reassert its influence over what Russia considers Eastern and Central Europe, their sphere of influence--those countries I often describe as the captive nations. One cannot ignore the statement of Vladimir Putin when he described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

Two years ago, after listening to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the German Marshall Fund Forum in Brussels, I concluded that Russia's internal political dynamic suggested that its people were deeply concerned by the growth in U.S. influence through NATO expansion and incursion into their part of the world. The Russian people, it seems, believed there was a post-Cold War promise, once the Iron Curtain came down, to not interfere in the region.

As one of the leaders in helping the captive nations movement and to this day regretting the way our brothers and sisters in these countries were treated during the postwar conferences at Yalta and Tehran--I must say I never thought the wall would come down or their curtain torn, but once it did, I did everything I could to ensure these newly democratized countries were invited to join NATO. In 1998, as chairman of the National Governors Association, I worked to get a resolution passed encouraging the United States to invite Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to join the alliance.

One of the proudest moments as a Senator was when I joined President Bush, Secretary of State Powell, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Myers at the NATO summit in Prague on November 21, 2002. I was in the room when NATO Secretary General Lord Robinson officially announced the decision to invite Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia into NATO. I mention all of this history for a simple reason. I don't think there is a Member of the Senate more wary of the intentions of Russia toward the former captive nations than I.

So it brings me back to the subject of the treaty now pending before the Senate. I take the Senate's constitutional advice and consent duties very seriously. Since the treaty was signed in April, I have attended numerous meetings and classified briefings on the treaty. I suspect I have spent at least 10 to 12 hours on it. Since I last spoke on this floor about the treaty in November, I have held additional consultations with a number of former Cabinet Secretaries, ambassadors, and experts from the intelligence community, including former Secretaries of State Albright, Powell, and Rice, seeking their views about the treaty's effect on our bilateral relationship with Russia, as well as our relationship with our Eastern and Central European allies. While some of those I met with had concerns about specific technical aspects of the treaty, I continually heard that we should ratify the treaty.

I believe it is noteworthy that five former Republican Secretaries of State, including Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger, and Powell, in a December 2, 2010 Washington Post opinion piece urged the Senate:

..... to ratify the New START Treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It is a modest and appropriate continuation of the START I treaty that expired almost a year ago.

These former Republican Secretaries of State described some of the outstanding issues with the treaty, but describe convincingly, in my opinion, why ultimately it is in our national interest to ratify the treaty.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the op-ed piece from the Washington Post be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, I believe many of these experts remain concerned, as do I, that a failure to ratify the treaty would be exploited by those factions in Russia who wish to revert back to our Cold War posture. Such a failure could easily be used by those factions to play on Russian nationalism, which I fear, from what I have heard from some people, is bordering on paranoia. Since I last spoke about the treaty, a number of our new NATO allies have come out and supported the treaty because they believe the treaty's approval should help advance other issues related to Russia, including the lack of compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, tactical nuclear weapons, and cooperation on missile defense.

For example, during his recent visit to Washington, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has stated he supports the treaty's ratification. And at a press conference at the conclusion of the NATO Lisbon Summit, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi stated:

My country has a very special experience with Russia, and also a special geographic location ..... We advocate ratification of START. It is in the interest of my nation, of Europe and most importantly for the transatlantic alliance.

During this press conference, Lithuania's Foreign Minister pointed out that he saw the treaty as a prologue to additional discussions with Russia about other forms of nuclear arms in the region such as tactical nuclear weapons. About three weeks ago, I received a call from President Zatlers, the President of Latvia, urging me: Mr. Senator, please ratify the START treaty.

Still, as history has taught us, the United States must make clear in regard to our relationship with Russia that it will not be at the expense of our NATO allies. Thus, I was pleased to see President Obama provided the leaders of our Central and European allies public reassurance regarding the U.S. commitment to article V of the North Atlantic Treaty during the recent NATO summit in Lisbon which, by the way, was one of the best NATO summits I think that has been held in the last dozen years. The President reaffirmed this commitment in his December 18, 2010 letter to the majority and minority leaders, and I hope that letter from the President has been circulated among my colleagues. It is very clear on where the President stands.

This NATO Summit meeting in Lisbon last month underscore, we are proceeding with a missile defense system in Europe designed to provide full coverage for NATO members on the continent, as well as deployed U.S. forces, against the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

I know that some of my colleagues are concerned with issues related to the treaty, including the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure, missile defense, and verification, and I will discuss each of these issues to explain why I believe they have been adequately addressed.

First of all, as others have pointed out--and I reiterate--Senator Kyl has made a valiant effort to ensure we modernize the U.S. nuclear infrastructure. I have worked with Senator Kyl on reviewing the treaty. I believe his hard work has led to nuclear modernization receiving the attention it deserves. It is long overdue. I remember Pete Domenici talking about the fact that we needed to do something about it and, frankly, we ignored Senator Domenici.

In a December 1, 2010, letter to Senators Kerry and Lugar, the National Lab Directors from Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia stated:

We are very pleased by the update to the Section 1251 report, as it would enable the laboratories to execute our requirements for ensuring a safe, secure, reliable, and effective stockpile under the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan.

I ask unanimous consent to have that letter printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, a number of experts I have consulted with have pointed out--and I have agreed with--the need for the President to provide public assurances regarding the U.S. commitment to a robust missile defense system. So I was pleased with the President's letter to our leadership reiterating such support. Here I quote directly from the President's letter:

Pursuant to the National Missile Defense Act of 1999, it has long been the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack, whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate.

With regard to the Russian assertion--and we have heard this--that the treaty's preamble prohibits the buildup in missile defense capabilities, the President has stated in very clear language that the ``United States did not and does not agree with the Russian statement. We believe the continued development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems, including qualitative and quantitative improvements to such systems, do not and will not threaten the strategic balance with the Russian Federation. ..... we believe the continued improvement and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems do not constitute a basis for questioning the effectiveness and the viability of the New START Treaty, and therefore would not give rise to circumstances justifying Russia's withdrawal from the Treaty.''

Mr. President, as I have discussed, I know many of my colleagues have concerns about the treaty. But after my own research and consultations with current and former Secretaries of State and numerous foreign policy experts, including many conservative experts, as well as yesterday's 3-hour closed session in the Old Senate Chamber, I support this treaty and do not believe the concerns that we have heard from some of our colleagues rise to the level at which the Senate should reject the treaty.

The President signed the treaty in April. It is now December, and we are coming up on 1 full year without any verification regime in place. I believe we should work to get this treaty done because these verification procedures are needed now. I am not the only one who believes this. I recently received a letter from Bulgaria's Ambassador to the United States, Elena Poptodorova. I have known her a long time and worked with her to get Bulgaria into NATO. She wrote:

A failure to swiftly ratify the treaty would mean discontinuation of the verification regime that could result in negative consequences in the nuclear disarmament, especially taking into consideration the significant strategic nuclear advantage of Russia.

In my view, it will also put at risk the future cooperation with Russia and will impede the negotiations on priorities, such as conventional forces and tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. It is of utmost importance that Russia be kept at the negotiating table beyond the scope of the New START Treaty, in particular on issues like Iran, Afghanistan and other global security challenges.

I ask unanimous consent that her letter be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, I also bring to my colleagues' attention a July 14, 2010, letter to Senators Levin, Kerry, McCain, and Lugar, from former commanders of the Strategic Air Command and U.S. Strategic Command. Again, I hope my colleagues will read that letter. They list three reasons for support of the treaty. I quote from their second and third reasons:

The New START Treaty contains verification and transparency measures--such as data exchanges, periodic dated updates, notification, unique identifiers on strategic systems, some access to telemetry and onsite inspections--that will give us important insights into Russian strategic nuclear forces and how they operate those forces.

We will understand Russian strategic nuclear forces much better with the treaty that would be the case without it.

These former military commanders go on to state that the U.S. nuclear armaments--again, I think this is for all of us as American people to realize--``will continue to be a formidable force that will ensure deterrence and give the President, should it be necessary, a broad range of military options.''

I ask unanimous consent that letter sent to the Foreign Relations Committee be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, I also ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a September 7, 2010, opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal by former Secretary of State George Shultz, who served under President Reagan. I think all of us who are familiar with George Shultz's record have high respect and regard for him.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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Mr. VOINOVICH. In his piece, the Secretary discusses the importance of verification and closes with this thought:

The original START Treaty expired last December. The time has come to start seeing again, with penetrating eyes, and to start learning from the new experience.

In other words, the provisions in terms of verification are new compared to the old START treaty.

Finally, I ask my colleagues to take note of Secretary Rice's statement that ``the treaty helpfully reinstates onsite verification of Russian nuclear forces, which lapsed with the expiration of the original START treaty last year. Meaningful verification was a significant achievement of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and its reinstatement is crucial.''

I ask unanimous consent that her article in the Wall Street Journal be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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Mr. VOINOVICH. Mr. President, in my opinion, the jury has returned its verdict, and the overwhelming evidence is that the Senate should ratify the treaty. Support for the treaty should not be viewed through the lens of being liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, but rather what is in the best interest of our national security, the best interest of the United States of America, the best interest of our relationships with those countries who share our values and understand that nuclear proliferation is the greatest international threat to our children and grandchildren.

Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support this treaty. I am prayerful that we have a good vote for it to demonstrate that we have come together on a bipartisan basis to do something that needs to be done, and something that liberals, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, can come together on to make a difference for the future.

I yield the floor.

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