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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - "Strategic Arms Control and National Security"


Location: Washington, DC

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on "Strategic Arms Control and National Security".

The full text of his statement as prepared is below:

This morning we are privileged to welcome two men who have served at the highest levels in the White House. General Brent Scowcroft is one of the country's leading strategic thinkers. After a storied three-decade career in the Air Force, he served as national security adviser to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush. Stephen Hadley was national security adviser during the last administration, a dedicated public servant during one of the most challenging periods in recent history.

General Scowcroft and Mr. Hadley have had long experience with strategic arms control. They both worked on the START I and START II accords; and they both testified many times before this committee on strategic issues in the "80s and "90s. Mr. Hadley was also deputy national security adviser during the negotiation and ratification of the Moscow Treaty.

This is our sixth hearing on the New START Treaty, and the degree of bipartisan support from the witnesses who have testified so far has been remarkable. Henry Kissinger recommended ratification because, he said, it is in America's national interest. James Baker testified that the treaty appears to take our country in a direction that can enhance our national security, while reducing the number of nuclear warheads on the planet. William Perry said the treaty advances American security objectives, and James Schlesinger called ratification "obligatory."

The reasons for supporting this treaty are powerful. Together, the United States and Russia have more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. By making the size and structure of their nuclear arsenals transparent and predictable, the New START Treaty will stabilize the strategic relationship between Washington and Moscow. And by strengthening their relationship, the treaty can open the door to greater cooperation on other issues of mutual concern.

The most important of those issues is stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorists. James Baker, who spent many years negotiating with the Soviets and the Russians, told this committee last month that the New START Treaty can improve the U.S.-Russian relationship and help stem nuclear proliferation in countries like Iran and North Korea.

Already, New START has yielded benefits: yesterday Russia reversed its prior position and voted to impose further UN sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities. I do not think it is a stretch to say that our negotiations on the New START Treaty helped to make that outcome possible.

New START is already encouraging greater cooperation from other states, as well. Last month, at the conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States was able to isolate Iran and prevent it from diverting attention from its own troubling behavior. And at the end of the conference we secured unanimous support for a document that strengthens the treaty. We were able to do this because, by reducing the role that nuclear weapons play in our own security policy, we have increased our credibility with the more than 180 states that don't have nuclear weapons. Today, far more than in recent years, those nations are rallying behind the United States and its efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of tyrants and terrorists.

This is a positive development, but if we reject this treaty, it will be quickly reversed. As Henry Kissinger testified two weeks ago, rejection of the treaty would suggest we were embracing a new unilateral reliance on nuclear weapons. It would inject a new element of uncertainty into the calculations of our adversaries and allies alike.

This Committee has been working to answer all questions that members have about the treaty. Some have raised concerns about the treaty's impact on missile defense, but all of the witnesses that have testified before this committee--witnesses from both sides of the aisle with decades and decades of collective national security experience--have testified that this treaty does not limit America's ability to defend itself from rogue state missile attack. The Committee has been assured repeatedly by our top defense officials that the treaty does not limit our ability to develop and deploy new missile defense systems, and next week we will have the opportunity to hear directly from the head of the Missile Defense Agency.

We will take the time we need to review and debate this treaty. We have an aggressive schedule of hearings planned over the next several months. But we also recognize that each day without a treaty in force, we lose the concrete benefits it provides for American security--most importantly its verification mechanisms. The arrangements we had in place to monitor Russia's strategic nuclear forces lapsed in December when the original START treaty expired. And, every day that has passed since then, our ability to see what the Russian forces are doing has diminished. This treaty would restore information exchanges, label each missile and bomber with a unique identifying number that allows us to better track it, and permit on-site inspections. These are crucially important measures. And the desire to put them in place as soon as possible is one reason why we plan to hold a full Committee vote on the treaty before the August congressional recess.

When Dr. Kissinger was here he said the consideration of the treaty had been not bipartisan, but nonpartisan. I take that as a great compliment to the work of my colleagues on this Committee. It is in that spirit that we have invited our two distinguished witnesses here today, and we look forward to hearing your views.

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