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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to comment briefly about the START Treaty, the consideration of which is now pending before the Senate, and to urge my colleagues to move forward to ratify this important treaty.

I have long been interested in the relationship between the United States and, at that time, the Soviet Union, following the end of World War II, with the emergence of our Nation and the Soviets emerging as the two great world powers.

In college, after the war, I devoted a good bit of study to U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations. I wrote a senior thesis on it as a major in political science and international relations, and I have continued that interest throughout my tenure in the Senate. One of my first initiatives, in 1982, after being elected in 1980, was to propose a resolution calling for a summit meeting between the President of the United States and the head of the Soviet Union.

President Reagan had a practice of making Saturday afternoon speeches--or Saturday morning speeches--on the radio. One day I listened in and heard him talk about the tremendous destructive power which both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. had, and how they had the capacity to destroy each other. Of course, that capacity became the basis of the mutual assured destruction period. But it seemed to me that what ought to be done was there ought to be a dialog and an effort to come to terms with the Soviet Union to reduce the tension and reduce the threat of nuclear war. I, therefore, offered a resolution to propose that.

My resolution was resisted by one of the senior Senators, Senator John Tower of Texas, who was chairman of the Armed Services Committee. When I proposed the resolution, it brought Senator Tower to the floor with a very really heated debate, with Senator Tower challenging my resolution and challenging my knowledge on the subject.

Early on, after being elected and starting to serve in 1981, I had traveled to Grand Forks, ND, to see the Missileman II. I went to Charleston, SC, to see our nuclear submarine fleet, and I went to Edwards Air Force Base in California to look at the B1-B, the B-1 bomber, at that time. I was prepared to take on these issues.

Senator Tower opposed it, offered a tabling motion, and standing in the well of the Senate, as if it was yesterday, I can remember that Senator Laxalt walked down the aisle from the door entering this Chamber and voted no. He started to walk up the aisle to the Republican cloakroom.

Senator Tower chased him and said: Paul, you don't understand. This is a tabling motion. I am looking for an ``aye.''

Laxalt turned and said: I understand it is a tabling motion, and I voted the way I wanted to, no. I want the resolution to go forward.

Senator Tower said: Well, ARLEN SPECTER is trying to tell the President what to do.

Senator Laxalt replied: Well, why shouldn't he? Everybody else does, he said jokingly.

That tabling motion was defeated 60 to 38. When a vote came up on the final resolution, it passed with 90 in favor and 8 in opposition. We know what happened. There were negotiations and President Reagan came up with the famous dictum, ``trust, but verify.''

I was then active in the negotiations, the discussions on the Senate observer group in Geneva around 1987. Then our record is plain that we have approved by decisive numbers three very important treaties. START I was approved by the Senate in 1992, with a vote of 93 to 6. The START II treaty was approved in 1996 by a vote of 87 to 4. The Moscow Treaty of 2003 was approved by a vote of 95 to 0.

We have heard extensive debate on the floor of the Senate. People have questioned the adequacy of the verification. I think those arguments have been answered by Senator JOHN KERRY, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who has done such an excellent job in managing the treaty. Questions have been raised about the missile defense, and I think that, too, has been adequately responded to. This has nothing to do with the issue of missile defense.

For me, a very key voice in this entire issue has been the voice of Senator RICHARD LUGAR, who has pointed out that this treaty does not deal with these collateral issues. This treaty is, directly stated, an extension of the treaty which has been in effect up until the present time and has worked so very well.

Strenuous arguments have been made about modernizing our nuclear forces. Well, that is a subject for another day and another time. But those who have offered that advocacy have found a response from the administration with millions of dollars, from $85 million. That, as I say, belongs to another day and another analysis. But those who have advocated for modernization have gained very substantial responses from the administration on that subject. Curious, in that context, that notwithstanding that very substantial funding, it hasn't won them over, hasn't diminished their resistance to the treaty. Also, curious in the context of those expenditures on an issue, which didn't directly involve the necessity for modernization, there is a real question as to whether there has been adequate debate and study on that subject, on the hearings. It isn't part of the START treaty debate and discussion about the expenditure of that kind of money, considering the kind of a deficit we have, and also considering the advocates of those modernization additions with the great expense have been some of the loudest voices objecting to governmental expenditures.

Well, we ought to spend what it takes for defense. That is the fundamental purpose of the Federal Government, to protect its citizens. But real questions arise in my mind as to whether this was the proper place to have that argument, but that has gone by the boards.

I think the letter which Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has issued about the conclusion of the military, that this is a good treaty; about Admiral Mullen's statement that he personally was involved in the negotiations; that if the START treaty was not to be ratified there would be U.S. military resources that would have to be devoted to certain other issues which were taken by START so that it leads to an unequivocal recommendation by our No. 1 military expert, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

One other very important element that has been discussed, but cannot be over emphasized, is the destructive consequence of having this treaty rejected in terms of our relations with Russia.

Russia is vitally important to us as we deal with Iran, vitally important to us as we deal with North Korea, vitally important to us as we deal with a whole range of international problems. For us to come right to the brink and then to say no and reject it and seek to reopen it would have a very serious effect on our relations with Russia, which are so important to our national security. The other nations of the world are watching in the wings what we do here. It would have a domino effect on our relationship with other nations.

It comes in a context where it is subject to being misunderstood as a political matter in the United States. I do not question for a moment the motivation of those who oppose START. Those who have spoken against it have been some of our body's most knowledgeable Members on this important subject. But there is so much publicity about some questioning whether President Obama can have both the START treaty and repeal of don't ask, don't tell at the same time, there has been so much public comment about not wanting to see President Obama have another victory before the end of the year, so much comment which raises a question as to whether opposition is politically motivated.

If the Russians and the other nations of the world cannot rely upon the Senate to make a judgment on the merits without regard to the politics or the appearance of politics, it has very serious consequences for our standing in the international community of nations.

For those reasons, I do believe we ought to move ahead promptly. We ought to ratify this treaty. We ought to continue our strenuous efforts to rid the world of the threat of nuclear war. This is part of that ongoing process.

I urge my colleagues to ratify this important treaty.

I yield the floor.


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