Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, I thank my new colleague from Illinois and associate myself with his remarks.

Since the Chairman referenced my amendment, I appreciate his support of the idea of committing ourselves to developing a missile defense system that could protect against Russian missiles. But unfortunately during the debate in committee, when we offered this as a binding amendment on the treaty, it would not be accepted unless we moved it to a mere declaration, which has no force of law. But it is good we have brought it up and recognize it is a major point of contention in the adoption of this treaty.

I would like to begin by speaking in support of the amendment of my colleagues, Senator John McCain and Senator John Barrasso, to strike the language in the treaty preamble that links offensive and defensive systems and limits our ability as Americans to protect our citizens. We know the Russians would like to limit our missile defense capabilities. Before President Obama signed the treaty, they expressed a desire to make the United States more vulnerable to future attacks. While discussions about the treaty were underway, Prime Minister Putin commented on American missile defenses. Last December, he said: ``By building such an umbrella over themselves, [the United States] could feel themselves fully secure and will do whatever they want.''

Prime Minister Putin got what he wanted. The Russians successfully linked missile defense to an offensive strategic nuclear weapons treaty.

After President Obama signed the treaty, the Russian Government issued a statement that said the treaty ``can operate and be viable only if the United States refrains from developing its missile defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively.'' How much more clear could they be? The understanding of the Russians is that this treaty ties our hands and prohibits us from defending our citizens against Russian missile attacks.

By giving the Russians this lever, the treaty damages the U.S. ability to defend against missile attacks. This has the effect of making America and her allies vulnerable, not only to Russia but to rogue nations. Russia should not be permitted to dictate whether we can develop our missile defense capabilities. No negotiations should require us to sacrifice our sovereignty. The United States has a constitutional duty to protect its citizens and a moral obligation to protect its allies.

Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey said it well in an op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in November. In it, he asked: ``Why has the administration agreed to a treaty that limits our nonnuclear long-range weapons and runs the risk of constraining our missile defenses?''

The administration's unilateral statement on limited missile defense does not resolve this ambiguity.

This treaty has a flawed premise which I would like to talk about for just a few minutes. The treaty is crafted out of the idea that the United States and Russia play the same role in the world. That is simply not true. The U.S. security umbrella covers over 30 countries. America is a protector of many. Russia, however, is a threat to many but a protector to none.

America's commitments are much greater and parity is unacceptable, especially given Russia's large tactical arsenal, which is not covered at all in this treaty. Moreover, the New START treaty is intended to be a step toward the President's goal of a world without nuclear weapons. President Reagan, who has been quoted at length during this debate, believed the only way to get to a world without nuclear weapons was by making them ``impotent and obsolete'' through a strong missile defense system. He walked out of negotiations with the Russians rather than sacrifice our missile defense options.

Now I would like to go through the ways the New START will reduce the U.S. forces, while Russia is not forced to make any reductions. All the reductions will be on our side.

The Obama administration champions the fact that the treaty would limit both countries to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads each. However, given the loophole in the counting rules, the number that can be deployed is several hundred higher. That means no reductions are required on behalf of the Russians.

The treaty's delivery vehicle limit is also troubling. The administration cannot even show the Senate how they intend to change the force structure to reach the new deployed delivery vehicle limits. Russia, however, is already well below the new limits.

To be clear, Russia does not have to destroy any nuclear warheads as part of this treaty. The treaty does not deal with nuclear stockpiles or tactical nuclear weapons. Russia can maintain its huge stockpile of roughly 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons, thousands more than the United States has, because the treaty does not restrict those types of weapons, which can also be affixed to rockets, submarines, and attack aircraft.

The administration lost a key opportunity to address the 10-to-1 disparity between Russia and the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. Proponents argue we will address tactical nuclear weapons during the next treaty, but that was said during the debate on the last arms control treaty with Russia. The administration has also subjected advanced conventional U.S. military capabilities to limitation in this new START treaty. Why were these included?

I also have questions about the verification measures in Russia's compliance. Why is it that the New START treaty has a substantially weaker verification regime than START I? Given Russia's history of cheating on arms control treaties, the weaker verification and inspection provisions in this treaty will only exacerbate the problem.

I also have concerns about the negotiating records for this treaty. We have asked repeatedly for these records and the administration has refused to give Senators access to them. We have asked numerous times and there is a precedent from past ratification of arms control treaties to make it available. We need to see the negotiating records to find out exactly what concessions were made during the negotiating process--particularly given the disagreement between what the Russians are saying about missile defense and what we are saying. We need to see what was agreed to during the negotiations. By not providing negotiating records, the administration has only increased concerns.

Supporters of this treaty would like everyone to believe this is a matter of urgent national security, but this is not true. I would like to quote former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who said:

They want to do [this treaty] before the lame duckers are out of there. That is not the way to move on this issue.

I agree with the former Secretary. This is not the proper way to move on this issue.

As the Washington Post noted in its editorial of November 19:

No calamity will befall the United States if the Senate does not act this year. The Cold War threat of a nuclear exchange between Washington and Moscow is, for now, nonexistent.

If it was so urgent, why did the administration allow the original START treaty, which included verification provisions, to lapse on December 5, 2009? Surely, they were aware it would be months before this treaty would be completed?

After the START I treaty expired, the two countries issued a joint statement pledging ``to continue to work together in the spirit of the START Treaty following its expiration.'' But that never happened.

Senator Lugar even had legislation that would have allowed the inspections to continue after December 5, but his legislation was ignored. If these verification measures are so urgent, it seems there would have been more of an effort to pass his bill. The administration's promise to bridge the agreement with Russia to preserve verification has failed.

Special Assistant to the President Gary Samore stated last month he was ``not particularly worried, near-term by the lack of inspections.''

As I said earlier today, I take my responsibility of advice and consent very seriously. We would be harming this institution if we do not seriously evaluate the many serious flaws in this treaty. I worry about many of the long-term negative effects this treaty will have on our security, but I would also like to talk some and explain about why I oppose the treaty in the short term.

First, we should not be ratifying this treaty during the lameduck session.

It is unprecedented to do so. The Heritage Foundation crosschecked the dates of each lameduck session of Congress with the Senate date of treaty ratification for treaties going all of the way back to 1947 and found no major treaty has ever been ratified by a Senate during a lameduck session of Congress. Doing so would violate the principle of consent maintained by the government since the 20th amendment was passed in 1933.

The first two sections of the 20th amendment were created to shorten the lameduck period after an election and before the new officials take office. Treaties ratified during a lameduck session are undemocratic, because many of those who support ratification are no longer accountable to the voters. At a minimum, we should wait until the new Senators are sworn in before we consider voting on this treaty.

Let me note that this is only the second day of full debate of this treaty, during a very hectic session. And it is being dual-tracked or triple-tracked with other matters before the Congress and backed up to the Christmas break. We are still working on a way to make sure the government is funded. This Chamber is also considering holding votes on the DREAM Act and don't ask, don't tell and no telling what else.

When the Senate considered the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF, in 1998, the Senate gave it 9 days of floor time, and it was not dual or triple-tracked with other issues. We focused on it and had a debate. The first START treaty was available for the Senate's review for over 400 days. I share the concerns expressed earlier today by my colleague from Tennessee, Senator BOB CORKER. He objected to the dual tracking of matters of national security with partisan issues.

As we are debating this treaty, meetings are being held to strategize ways to get votes on other bills to reward special interests and fulfill campaign promises. The New START treaty will have many implications for our country's security and, surely, something as important as this deserves the Senate's full attention.

As I conclude, I wish to thank again Senators MCCAIN and BARRASSO for their amendment, and for their thorough explanations of why it is so important. They were right to point out that the Bush administration worked very hard to break up the linkage between offensive and defensive missile systems.

That is why former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in a recent opinion editorial that: The Senate must make absolutely clear that in ratifying this treaty, the United States is not reestablishing the Cold War link between offensive forces and missile defenses. New START's preamble is worrying in this regard as it recognizes the interrelationship of the two.

By passing the McCain-Barrasso amendment, we can fix this, and we can make sure that this treaty does not limit our ability to defend our citizens.

I yield the floor and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I know we are discussing a number of different issues on the floor right now, and one of the most important, as my colleagues know, is the START treaty with Russia, and I wish to take a few minutes to talk about it.

We all take our responsibility of advice and consent very seriously for nominations and particularly on a treaty of this magnitude. I am very disappointed that on something of this importance, we are bringing it up in a lameduck Congress at a time when Americans are distracted by one of the most holy holidays for Christians in this country.

None of us minds working through the holidays or through the night on the Nation's business, but it is important that Americans participate in this process with us. They know many of the people who will be voting on this treaty are those who have been turned out of office by Americans in the last election, and they will also know that the reason to rush it through before new Members are sworn in is that those who will be carrying the voice of Americans into the next session may have a different view of some of the things we are doing here.

It is important, as we look at this START treaty, to understand the implications and the background of this treaty. A number of my colleagues have talked about various aspects of it--about verification, the number of missiles--and I will touch on a few of these things.

I respect the administration's intent to try to enlist the cooperation of Russia on other major issues, such as dealing with Iran and North Korea, and that this is a symbol of our willingness to work with them. I understand that. I understand that is one of the reasons a number of past Secretaries of State have said we need to do this.

I think the administration and many recognize that this treaty only deals with intercontinental ballistic missiles--ICBMs--missiles we have had for years on the shelf as a deterrent, as part of that strategy of mutually assured destruction. Russia had its number of missiles and we had ours, with the understanding that if they fired missiles at us, we would fire missiles at them, and we would destroy each other--mutually assured destruction. These missiles don't defend Americans, except if you say maybe to deter Russians from firing their missiles at us. But as we understand that this treaty only deals with the ICBMs, we recognize it doesn't include many other weapons, such as tactical nuclear weapons, and we also understand it does not have any prohibitions on other countries developing nuclear weapons, nuclear missiles.

We also understand that Russia has basically already met the limitations in this agreement. They are not going to have to draw down their number of missiles or warheads. The United States will reduce the number of missiles--ICBMs--it has. But, again, the other weapons, which are perhaps more dangerous and of more concern to some of our allies, are not included in this treaty.

So I think part of the rationale of moving through with this is that it only deals with one type of missile that is perhaps of limited importance in today's world--although certainly the deterrence will continue to be part of our strategy--and we are just dealing with these so-called strategic weapons and not tactical weapons, and that we can give this up, we can reduce the number we have in order to gain Russia's cooperation in other matters. I understand that rationale. But this is more than just a treaty between the United States and Russia; it is a signal to our allies and to the whole world on what posture America will take in the future on defending our allies, what posture we will take particularly on missile defense. That is where I wish to focus most of my comments today.

There was no argument in the hearings that this treaty is an implicit and explicit agreement by the United States not to develop a missile defense system that can defend against Russian missiles. That should be clear, and there is no argument.

I think we have played with words a little bit in saying it does not limit our plans in missile defense. Our plans are to develop an unlimited system that can shoot down a rogue missile. But in the hearings with Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, Chairman Kerry, it was made very clear that this treaty--it made it clear to the Russians and to the whole world that the United States would not even attempt to develop a missile defense system capable of shooting down multiple missiles.

Now, if Russia was the only country in the world capable of developing multiple nuclear missiles, perhaps we could discuss that within that context. But as we know today, there has been a proliferation of nuclear technology to many countries, including Iran and North Korea. We know that other countries such as Pakistan have nuclear weapons. It is not unrealistic to suggest that within a few years there may be numerous countries that have capabilities to fire multiple missiles at the United States or one of our allies.

Americans need to know we are agreeing with this START treaty not to even attempt to develop a system to defend our citizens or our allies against multiple missiles. In the hearing, I made this very clear with a question: Is it our intent not to develop a missile defense system capable of defending against Russian missiles? Senator Kerry, Secretary Gates, and Secretary Clinton agreed that would destabilize our relationship with Russia. So everyone should be clear about what is happening here--that in order to enlist Russia's cooperation in other matters, we are agreeing to a continued strategy of mutually assured destruction not just with Russia but with any country that chooses to develop the ability to fire multiple missiles at one time.

I don't think this treaty is going to decrease proliferation. I think on its face it will increase the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world. Our enemies will know we don't have the ability to defend against missiles, and our allies will develop their own nuclear weapons because they know we no longer have the capability to defend against not just Russia's missiles, not just strategic missiles, but against tactical nuclear weapons.

Russia has a 10-to-1 advantage right now with modern tactical nuclear weapons that are developed not as a deterrence but to be used on the battlefield. This treaty does not limit their ability to continue to develop these weapons. This treaty implicitly and I think explicitly says we are not going to develop any means to shoot down those shorter range missiles.

For us to be considering something of this gravity during the holidays, when Americans are rightly paying attention to things other than politics, and to rush this through with a few days of debate, when for the last treaty I looked at, we had 9 days with many amendments, a lot of debate, and finally agreement--we will not only have limited debate and limited amendments, but we are going to try to push this through before we leave to go home for Christmas. The process is wrong.

I would appeal to my colleagues to let this go until next year. Let's give a specific time agreement next year that we will debate this and we will have a vote on it and we will offer amendments and vote on those amendments and show the American people this was a full debate with full transparency about what is in this treaty and then let Senators vote on it, the Senators Americans have elected to speak for them here in the Senate.

I have heard folks say on the Senate floor that we need to rush into this because we can no longer go days, weeks, and months without verification. I think a close look at the verification of the last treaty shows we weren't very close to what was actually going on. There are big loopholes in the verification aspects of this treaty, loopholes that are big enough to hide missiles and nuclear warheads, and I don't think there is a lot of debate about that. A few more weeks is not going to put our country in any more jeopardy. In fact, I think rushing this through could make the world much more dangerous.

My hope is that my colleagues, particularly my Republican colleagues, those who have expressed an interest in voting for this, will say: Enough is enough. Pushing this legislation, along with repealing don't ask, don't tell, the DREAM Act and other bills we are doing at the same time, and all of these requests for unanimous consent to pass bills that people haven't read--there is just too much business, too many distractions to take on something of this gravity at this time in a lameduck Congress.

So I appreciate the opportunity to speak. I respect those who feel as though this treaty is something we should do. But it is my hope that those people will reflect on the importance of this treaty, the signal it sends to our allies all over the world, and work with us to get an open and honest debate on this treaty at the beginning of next year.

With that, I yield the floor.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top