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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LeMIEUX. Mr. President, I rise to offer an amendment to the New START Treaty--this important treaty that we are discussing between the United States of America and Russia concerning strategic nuclear weapons.

I have a lot of concerns about this treaty. Many of those concerns have already been expressed by my colleagues. I have concerns about the verification procedures, that they are weakened from the previous START Treaty. I have concerns about the linkage of missile defense systems with strategic offensive weapons. Those concerns have been addressed as well, and I share them.

The biggest concern I have about this treaty is its failure to deal with what are called tactical nuclear weapons. Now, to those folks at home who may be listening to this, it is probably not readily apparent--it wasn't initially to me--the difference between what a strategic nuclear weapon is and a tactical nuclear weapon. A strategic nuclear weapon is usually considered to be a large vehicle, like an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. It travels over a very long range. These strategic nuclear weapons can also be delivered by a submarine or a long-range bomber. A tactical nuclear weapon is generally much smaller in size. It has a smaller range and has a delivery vehicle that may be on the back of a truck, for example.

In many ways, in the world we live in today, where we are not in the Cold War atmosphere with the former Soviet Union, the tactical nuclear weapon is of much more concern than the strategic. The great fear we all have is that one of these nuclear weapons would get into the hands of a terrorist. A tactical nuclear weapon, by its very nature, is portable, and it could be something that is even capable of being moved by one person or, as I said before, on the back of a truck.

Why this treaty doesn't deal with tactical nuclear weapons is beyond me. I realize in the past, when we were in the Cold War environment with the Soviet Union, we didn't deal with tactical nuclear weapons because we were concerned about these big missiles that could cross the ocean and strike our country. We were concerned about heavy bombers delivering missiles or bombs that would hit the homeland. That makes sense. But we are in a completely different environment now. While we should still be concerned with those strategic weapons, the tactical weapons are actually much more of a danger to us because they are the very weapons that could get into the hands of a rogue nation. Those are the very weapons that could get into the hands of a terrorist.

This treaty doesn't have anything to do with that. It doesn't address it at all. It would be as if we were going to enter into a treaty about guns, and we had a big negotiation in a treaty where we talked about long arms, shotguns, and rifles, but we failed to talk about pistols. It doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't make any sense to me because these are the very weapons about which we should be the most concerned. It also doesn't make sense to me because of the disparity between how many tactical nuclear weapons we have versus how many the Russians have. This treaty limits the amount of those weapons to each country to around 1,500. But the Russians have 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons, and we have 300. So the Russians have a 10-to-1 advantage over us in tactical nuclear weapons. If we approve this treaty, the Russians then will approximately have 4,500 nuclear weapons, and we will have 1,800. That doesn't make a lot of sense either. They have a 10-to-1 advantage on these tactical nuclear weapons.

I think it is incumbent upon us to realize that we have to have a treaty on tactical nuclear weapons. It should have been part of this treaty. It wasn't part of these START treaties in the past because the total number of weapons that the United States had and the former Soviet Union had was immense. When we had 20,000 or 30,000 strategic nuclear weapons, the fact that they had 3,000 tacticals didn't matter. It wasn't an important number in the overall scheme.

But now that we are in this new world where we are concerned about nuclear proliferation, and we don't want terrorists to get these weapons, plus the fact that they are going to end up having 4,500 and we are going to end up everything 1,800, it matters a lot.

My amendment says that within a year of the ratification of this treaty, the Russians and the United States must sit down and negotiate a tactical nuclear weapon agreement. It doesn't require that it be resolved within a year. It requires that it be started. That seems to me--I am a little biased, but that seems to me eminently reasonable. I am proud that Senators Chambliss and Inhofe have joined me on this amendment. Who could be against having the Russians and the United States sit down within a year's time of ratification and begin the negotiation on tacticals? Who could be against that?

You will hear from my friends on the other side, who are defending this treaty and voting down all of the amendments being offered on this side of the aisle, that we can't amend the treaty because, if we do, it is a poison pill, and the Russians will not accept it.

If that is true, then we are not really fulfilling much of a function, are we? Under the Constitution, there are some special privileges that are imbued to the Senate.

One of them is the treaty privilege, the treaty power, where all treaties must be confirmed by the Senate on a two-thirds vote. If we can't amend it, and all we are doing is either saying yes or no, to me that limits our ability. If my friends on the other side think this is a poison pill, I ask them to look at the language. I am just putting in the treaty, if they accept this, that within a year's time, we have to sit down at the table and enter into these negotiations on tacticals. It is not a heavy lift, it seems to me.

They will say we can't do this because the Russian Duma will not accept it. What does that say? If the Russian Duma, their legislature, will not accept an amendment--if the treaty is as it is now, as negotiated by the U.S.--and I have said before that I have concerns about what is there for verification and about missile defense. Putting that aside, if it goes the way it has been drafted and agreed to between the President and the leaders of Russia, with just this one amendment that says that the two sides will sit down within a year's time, will the Russian Parliament not approve that? And if they don't approve it, if they will not say they will sit down within a year's time and negotiate about the 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons they have, about the security of those weapons, about our ability to verify where they are and about a reduction of them, because of the disparity in the 3,000 they have and the 300 we have, what does that say about the Russians?

What it says to me is that they are not, in good faith, really trying to come to an agreement about nuclear weapons. Would we want this treaty if the Russian Duma said they are not going to agree to sit down within a year's time to talk about tactical nuclear weapons?

I think this is a very important amendment. I have great respect for the people who have stood up and supported this treaty. I think there are problems with it, but I don't see any reason why a fair-minded person could not agree that within a year's time the two parties should sit down and talk about what, to me, is the most dangerous part of our nuclear challenge with Russia, which is tactical nuclear weapons. We don't know where they are, what they are doing, we can't verify them, and there is a 10-to-1 advantage that the Russians have over us.


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