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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, let me begin very quickly. First of all, I wish to thank the Senator from Idaho for his amendment. I appreciate the thought he has put into the consideration of this treaty and his role on the Foreign Relations Committee and the work he has done over the 4 days, and now the fifth day of consideration of this treaty on the floor of the Senate.

The amendment the Senator proposes to put into the treaty is an amendment to the preamble. So we have the same problem we had yesterday. I would just say that up front. But that said, we have great agreement with the substance of what he is trying to put forward in terms of the need to deal with tactical nuclear weapons. We will say more about that afterwards.

If the Senator would be willing, I think we can find a way to incorporate into the resolution of ratification a genuine, meaningful, adequate statement with respect to this linkage between tactical nuclear weapons and overall strategic understanding. I would like to do that, but I know the Senator wants to proceed with this amendment first. I just want him to have that understanding, that we are prepared to say something important, and I think substantive, about tactical nuclear weapons.

I wish to use a couple of minutes, if I may, to respond to a couple of comments made this morning by the minority leader on one of the morning television shows.

First of all, obviously, I regret he will not support the treaty itself. We had an understanding that was probably going to be the case. It is not a surprise. But I find it disappointing, given the entire Republican foreign policy, national security, experienced statesmen group who are sort of emeritus for our Nation today--including former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Secretary of State Jim Baker, as well as the list of all of the former Secretaries of State from the Republican side, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--all support this treaty.

The military supports this treaty. The leader of the Strategic Command, current, and the past former seven, support this treaty. The national intelligence community supports this treaty.

So I hope that in these waning days of this session, as we approach this holiday season which is so focused on the concept of renewal and hope and peace, that we could find the ability in the Senate to embrace in a bipartisan way the security interests of our country.

Particularly with regard to the notion about more time on this treaty, we are now on the fifth day of debate on this treaty. Let's debate today. Even if we had the cloture filing tonight or something, we would still have 2 days more of debate before that ripens and a vote on it, after which we then have 30 hours of debate providing it will pass.

So we are looking at the prospect of having more days of debate on this treaty, a simple building block on top of the START I treaty. We are looking at having more days of debate on this treaty than the START I, START II, and Moscow Treaty all put together.

So I think the Senate, which is appropriate, has time to focus on this treaty. I thought we had a good debate yesterday. The President said:

Regardless of Russia's actions, as long as I am President and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the United States.

So I hope our colleagues will give credence to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the military, the President of the United States, and to the budget. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee informed me yesterday they have fully funded the modernization, once again, in the CR, just as we did in the previous CR--a sign of good faith of the direction in which we are going.

So all I can say is we have bent over backwards to meet the concerns of our colleagues in a completely nonpolitical, apolitical, totally bipartisan, substantive way that meets the security concerns of the country. I hope we can find reciprocity with respect to that kind of action in the Senate.

So I reserve the remainder of my time. We will respond appropriately on the substance of this amendment at the appropriate time.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Oklahoma.

I will consume such time as I use for a moment. Let me say, first of all, again, I appreciate this amendment. There is not a lot of contention about the importance of addressing a lot of short-range tactical weapons, as we call them. The administration wants to do this as much as our friends on the other side of the aisle do, and I think the Senator from Idaho knows that.

Let me correct one fact for a minute that both the Senator from Texas and the Senator from Idaho said. They said the Russians will not have to reduce their strategic warheads and that they are already below the number of 1,550. That is not accurate. I won't go into detail here. We can reinforce this tomorrow in a classified session. But the Russians do have to reduce warheads under this requirement--not as much as us. Our defense community has made the judgment that because of our triad, which will remain robust, and for other reasons, we have a very significant advantage. Again, I will discuss that tomorrow in the classified briefing.

What I want to say to my colleague is that, again, I am 100 percent prepared to try to embrace this concept even further in the resolution of ratification. But we cannot do it in a way that requires this treaty to go back and be renegotiated. This is not a complicated amendment. There is a very simple reason why we should oppose this amendment as it is: because of the requirement that we go back. Because if we don't pass the START treaty, if we can't reach a bilateral agreement on the reduction of strategic weapons, there will be no discussion about tactical weapons. That is as plain as day. Every negotiator, everybody who has been part of this process, understands that. If we can't show our good faith to reduce and create a mutual verification system for strategic weapons, how are we going to sit in front of them and say, Oh, by the way, let's get you to reduce what is your advantage--it is an advantage, I acknowledge that--you go ahead and reduce it. They are going to laugh at us and we will have lost all of the verification we have today.

It is not just me who says that. The fact is Secretary Gates has been very clear about this, and Secretary Clinton likewise. Secretary Gates said this. I know my colleagues all respect him enormously.

We will never get to that step of reductions with the Russians on tactical nukes if this treaty on strategic nuclear weapons is not ratified.

It is a pretty simple equation, folks. This isn't a one-way street where we can stand here and say, You have to do this and you have to do that and, by the way, we don't care what you think about what we are doing, we are going to do what we want. That is not the way it works. There has to be some reciprocity in the process of reduction and verification and inspection, and so forth. They have things they don't want us to see and we have stuff we don't want them to see. There is plenty in this agreement where we protect our facilities from them being able to intrude on them excessively, because our folks don't want them to. That is the nature of a contentious relationship which is the reason you have to argue out, negotiate out a treaty in the first place.

If the Secretary of Defense is telling us--a Secretary of Defense, by the way, whom we all mutually respect enormously, but who was appointed to the job by President Bush--if he is telling us you have to pass this in order to get to the tactical nukes, I think we have to listen to that a little bit.

Let me point out--I want the Record to reflect I agree with the Senator from Idaho. They have many more tactical nukes. They have had for a long time. The reason is they have different strategic needs. They are in a different part of the world. For a long time, the Warsaw Pact and NATO were head to head and squared off, and so they saw a world in which they saw the potential of a land invasion. So for a long time they had tanks and mines and other things that were nuclear capable. What happened is we unilaterally, I might add, decided under President Bush, I think it was, President George Herbert Walker Bush, we decided this is dangerous. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense for us. So we unilaterally announced--after the fall of the Soviet Union, President Bush announced we were going to ratchet down our tactical nuclear forces, and everybody agreed with that. It made sense.

So we did that and what happened is after that, President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 pledged that the production of warheads for ground-launched tactical missiles, artillery shells, and mines had stopped. They stopped it because we stopped it. And all of those warheads would be eliminated. He pledged that Russia would dispose of one-half of its tactical airborne and surface-to-air warheads as well as one-third of its tactical naval warheads. The Russian Defense Ministry said in 2007, the ground force tactical nuclear warheads had been eliminated. Air defense tactical warheads were reduced by 60 percent. Air Force tactical warheads were reduced by 50 percent. Naval tactical warheads were reduced by 30 percent. Guess what. That didn't happen with the treaty. It happened because we had what we call Presidential nuclear initiatives. Our President made the decision, President Bush: We don't need them, dangerous, reduce them, and the Russians followed.

I heard an estimate earlier of 2,000 or something--this is according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. We estimate they have a large inventory of operational nonstrategic warheads--5,390 is the number of tactical warheads, air defense tactical, et cetera. So they do still have more, and it still is a very legitimate concern to us.

That is why, I say to my colleagues, in the resolution of advice and consent we have the following declaration:

(A) The Senate calls upon the President to pursue, following consultation with allies, an agreement with the Russian Federation that would address the disparity between the tactical nuclear weapons stockpiles of the Russian Federation and of the United States and would secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner.

That is in the resolution. You can vote for that. In addition, we say:

(B) Recognizing the difficulty the United States has faced in ascertaining with confidence the number of tactical nuclear weapons maintained by the Russian Federation and the security of those weapons, the Senate urges the President to engage the Russian Federation with the objectives of (1) establishing cooperative measures to give each Party to the New START Treaty improved confidence regarding the accurate accounting and security of tactical nuclear weapons maintained by the other Party; and (2) providing United States or other international assistance to help the Russian Federation ensure the accurate accounting and security of its tactical nuclear weapons.

I am prepared--if that language doesn't satisfy folks, let's go look further. I am happy to do that. But we are not going to do it in a way that precludes us from going to the very negotiations you want to have. It doesn't make sense, not to mention the fact that it puts the entire treaty back into negotiating play. Who knows how long it would be.

The estimates I have from the negotiating team is it could take 2, 3 years. We have been a whole year now without inspections and knowing what they are doing. I will talk, tomorrow in the security briefing, about the impact that has on our intelligence, and the dissatisfaction in the intelligence community with a prolonged and continued delay in getting that.

So I simply say to my colleagues, let's do what is smart. Secretary Clinton said:

The New START Treaty was always intended to replace START. That was the decision made by the Bush administration.

I emphasize again that President Obama was not the person who made the decision not to extend START I. The Russians didn't do it unilaterally. Neither of us wanted to do it, because under this START agreement, we actually put in a better system, and one, let me say, that General Chilton emphasizes reduces the constraints on missile defense.

So here is what Secretary Clinton said: ``I would underscore the importance of ratifying the New START Treaty to have any chance of us beginning to have a serious negotiation over tactical nuclear weapons.''

Some Senators are saying: Why didn't they address them at the same time and say we have to get this and that done? Well, for a couple reasons. One, Russia's tactical weapons are primarily a threat to our allies in Europe. Knowing the differences of that equation, to have linked our own strategic interests to that negotiation at that time would have left us who knows how long without the capacity to get an agreement, No. 1. No. 2, last year when we began negotiations on New START, NATO was in the midst of working out its new strategic concept. Our allies were in the midst of assessing their security needs. It would have been impossible to have that discussion without them having made that assessment and resolved their own security needs and definitions.

But now NATO has completed that strategic concept. We have heard from a lot of European governments about New START. What do they say and what do our allies say? We are not in this ball game alone. They are united in support for this treaty, in part because they see it as the necessary first step to be able to have the negotiations that bring the reductions in tactical nuclear weapons.

Let me quote Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland's Foreign Minister:

Without a New START Treaty in place, holes will soon appear in the nuclear umbrella that the U.S. provides to Poland and other allies under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the collective security guarantee for NATO members. Moreover, New START is a necessary stepping stone to future negotiations with Russia about its tactical nuclear weapons.

So they believe you have to pass START to get to this discussion.

This is the Lithuanian Foreign Minister:

We see this treaty as a prologue, as an entrance to start talks about substrategic weaponry, which is much more endangerous, and it is quite difficult to detect. And we who are living in east Europe especially know this.

The Secretary General of NATO said:

We need transparency and reductions of short-range tactical weapons in Europe. This is a key concern for allies. But we cannot address this disparity until the New START Treaty is ratified.

I don't know how many times you have to make this connection. General Chilton, who is in charge of our nuclear forces, said this to the Armed Services Committee:

The most proximate threat to the United States, us, are the ICBM and SLBM weapons because they can and are able to target the U.S. homeland and deliver a devastating effect on this country. So we appropriately focused in those areas in this particular treaty for strategic reasons. Tactical nuclear weapons don't provide the proximate threat that the ICBMs and SLBMs do.

The disparity in U.S. and Russian tactical arsenals, I repeat, we want to address. I am prepared to put something in here--if the Senator from Idaho thinks we can find the language, as we did with Senator DeMint, who has strong language in here about missile defense, let's put it in here. But it doesn't put us at a strategic disadvantage.

Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen stated, in response to our questions, for the record:

Because of their limited range and the very different roles played by strategic nuclear forces, the vast majority of Russian tactical nuclear weapons cannot directly influence the strategic nuclear balance between the United States and Russia.

Donald Rumsfeld said this to the Foreign Relations Committee a few years ago:

..... I don't know that we would ever want to have symmetry between the United States and Russia [in tactical nuclear weapons]. Their circumstance is different and their geography is different.

General Chilton said:

Under the assumptions of limited range and different roles, Russian tactical nuclear weapons do not directly influence the strategic balance between the U.S. and Russia. Though numerical asymmetry exists in the numbers of tactical nuclear weapons we estimate Russia possesses, when considered within the context of our total capability, and given force levels as structured in New START, this asymmetry is not assessed to substantially affect the strategic stability between the United States and Russia.

There is more here. I will reserve the balance of time because other colleagues want to say something. First, let me say this about the process as we go forward. There is some talk that we are now reaching a point--we are on day five--we had Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and now Sunday. That is 5 days. START I took 5 days. If we filed a cloture motion at some point in the evening, for instance, we would still have 2 days before we even vote on that. Then, presuming we were to achieve it, we have 30 hours after that, which can amount to almost 2 days in the Senate. That would mean 9 days, if we go that distance on this treaty, which is simpler than START I. We would have more days on this treaty--simpler than START I--than we had on all 3--the Moscow Treaty, START II, and START I treaties put together.

I hope my colleagues will recognize that the majority leader has given time to this effort. We are giving time to it. We want amendments. No amendment, I think, would be struck. We would have time to vote on each amendment and deliberate each amendment. But I think it is important for us to consider the road ahead.

I reserve the remainder of our time.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, if the Senator will yield.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Senator is absolutely correct. The key question is, Is there sufficient support to ratify the treaty? Once we get to that sort of question postcloture, when and if that is invoked, that is what the threshold would be for the passage of this treaty. It is not as if you have cloture and all of a sudden, boom, only 51 votes are necessary to pass it.

Secondly, I would say to my colleague--and I want to emphasize this--if the majority leader were to put the cloture motion in this evening, it doesn't ripen until Tuesday. So we would have the rest of today, all of tomorrow, and Tuesday to have amendments; to continue as we are now. Then, if it did pass, we would have another 30 hours, which, as we all know, takes the better part of 2 days. So we are looking at Thursday under that kind of schedule, and I know a lot of Senators are hoping not to be here on Thursday.

So I think that is quite a lot of time within the context of this. But the Senator is correct. The answer to his question is yes.

Mr. CORKER. If I could ask one other question. If a Senator comes to the floor and wants to offer an amendment, not on the treaty itself--which we realize is more difficult to pass because of what that means as relates to negotiations with Russia--but to offer an amendment on the resolution of ratification, which is something that might likely be successful and accepted, it is my understanding all they have to do is come down and offer that amendment, to ask unanimous consent to call it up; is that correct?

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, without the help of the Parliamentarian, obviously we are entitled to do a lot by unanimous consent, and that is one of those things. We will not object, obviously. We want to try to help our colleagues be able to put those amendments in, so it would be without objection on our side.

Mr. CORKER. So it is my understanding--to be able to talk with other Senators who have an interest on the treaty itself and would like to do some things to strengthen it, it is my understanding that what I just heard was that the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee would be more than willing to accommodate a unanimous consent request to actually offer amendments to the resolution itself, and he knows of no one on their side, at present, who would object to that. So if people wanted to go back and forth between the actual treaty and the resolution itself, they now can do that on the floor?

Mr. KERRY. That is correct.

Mr. CORKER. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Tennessee.

I will yield 5 minutes to the distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin, to be followed by 7 minutes to the Senator from Oregon.

I ask the Senator from Oregon, is that enough time? Is 7 minutes enough time?

Thank you.

I reserve the remainder of our time.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, how much time do we still have?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 16 minutes remaining.

Mr. KERRY. Sixteen? And the Senator from Idaho has--


Mr. KERRY. Ten. So somehow we are going past the hour of 3.

MR. RISCH. Unless, of course, you want to yield.

Mr. KERRY. Do you want to yield some time back?

Mr. RISCH. No.

Mr. KERRY. Let me use a portion of it, and I will reserve a little bit at the end.

First of all, both Bill Perry, former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, and Jim Schlesinger have been mentioned, as well as the Commission on which they served. Let me make certain that the record is clear about their position with respect to this treaty.

Secretary Perry said the following:

The focus of this treaty is on deployed warheads and it does not attempt to counter or control nondeployed warheads. This continues in the tradition of prior arms control treaties. I would hope to see nondeployed and tactical systems included in future negotiations, but the absence of these systems should not detract from the merits of this treaty and the further advance in arms control which it represents.

Jim Schlesinger, from the same Commission, said:

The ratification of this treaty is obligatory. I wish more of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were here to hear Jim Schlesinger's comments, but he said ratification is obligatory and the reason it is obligatory is that you really can't get to the discussion you want to have with the Russians about tactical unless you show the good faith to have the strategic and verification reduction structure in place.

Let me just say, supposing the language of the Senator from Idaho was adopted here, would it mean we are reducing tactical nuclear weapons? No. Would it get you any further down the road to be able to reduce them? The answer is, not only would it not do that, it would set back the effort to try to get those reductions because the Russians will not engage in that discussion if you can't ratify the treaty, and if they pass this amendment, this treaty, as Senator Levin said, is dead.

It goes back to the Russian Government with a provision that is now linking those weapons in a way that they have not been willing to talk about, even engage in the discussion at this point in time.

In fact, we would be setting ourselves backwards if that amendment were to be put into effect. What is ironic about it is, he is amending a component of the treaty that has no legal, binding impact whatsoever. So not only would they refuse to negotiate, but there is nothing legally binding in the language he would pass that would force them to negotiate. So it is a double setback, if you will. I would simply say to my friend on the other side--I talked to him privately about this, and I think he is openminded on it--we have language in the resolution right now with respect to nuclear weapons. We are not ignoring the issue. The language says: The Senate calls on the President following consultation with allies to get an agreement with the Russian Federation on tactical nuclear weapons.

I am prepared in the resolution of ratification to entertain language as a declaration that would also make the Senate's statement clear about how we see those nuclear weapons in terms of their threat. I hope that would address the concerns of many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

But the bottom line here is that Senator Risch's language not only does not make any progress on the topic he is concerned about, it actually sets back the capacity to be able to make the progress he wants to make.

If you want to limit Russia's tactical nuclear weapons, and I do, and he does, and I think all 100 Senators do, then you have to pass the New START. You have got to approve the New START. If you reject it, you are forcing a renegotiation, which never gets you not only to the tactical nuclear weapons but which leaves you completely questionable as to where you are going to go on the strategic nuclear weapons, which means the world is less safe; we have lost our leverage significantly with respect to Iran, North Korea; we have certainly muddied the relationship significantly with respect to Russia; we have ``unpushed'' the restart button; and we have opened who knows what kind of can of worms with respect to a whole lot of cooperative efforts that are important to us now, not the least of which, I might add, is the war in Afghanistan, where Russia is currently cooperating with us in providing a secondary supply route and assisting us in other ways with respect to Iran.

So I say, let's not do something that we know unravels all of these particular components. Anytime you change that resolution of ratification, it is like pulling, you know, a piece of string on a sweater or on a yarn roll and everything starts to unravel as a consequence. One piece undoes another piece undoes another piece. That is not where we want to go.

I hope, obviously, we will say no to this amendment and proceed. I reserve the remainder of my time.


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