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Mr. McCAIN. What, we are about 6 weeks after the last election, now discussing the START treaty, and I will have an amendment I will be proposing in a moment that I think is important. Meanwhile, two other issues, both of which are very controversial, cloture has been filed on and the clock is running.
There are also threats that we may have, again, other votes on things such as relief for the New York 9/11 people, the firefighters issue, and a couple others. Online gambling has been mentioned in the media as one of the majority leader's proposals.
Again, here we are. People spoke clearly on November 2. It was, in the words of the President of the United States, a ``shellacking.''
What are we doing on December 17? We are in one session of the Senate, the executive session. Meanwhile, the legislative session will go on. Who knows what issue the majority leader will bring--another issue before the Senate, maybe get a couple more privileged messages from the other side, file it, run the clock, 30 hours, and then force the Members of this body, of which there will be five additional Members beginning January 5--and at the same time my friend from Massachusetts and the President of the United States and proponents of the treaty are saying: Put partisanship aside, put your concerns aside, trust us because this is very important for the Nation.
What possible good does it do when the majority leader continues to bring up issues and force us to have votes on them, which is clearly in keeping with the majority on the other side's political agenda? It is kind of a remarkable situation.
I have been around this body for quite some years. I have not seen a degree and intensity of partisanship that I see today in the Senate. All of us want to do what is right for the country. That is why this START treaty deserves serious consideration. It deserves serious consideration by itself. But this body operates in an environment of cooperation and comity. That very much is not in existence today.
We will then, tomorrow, I take it--on Saturday we will go off the executive calendar, onto the legislative calendar, force votes on these two very controversial issues, and then maybe, if it moves him so, the majority leader will bring up another issue as he has in the past to force votes, most of which of those votes he knows very clearly will not succeed but will give him and the other side some kind of political advantage.
That was not the message of the last election.
So I think a number of us are growing weary of this on this side of the aisle. We are just growing weary. And we believe the people of this country spoke--in the words of the President of the United States: a shellacking--and we ought to perhaps keep the government in operation, go home, and, in less than 2 weeks or a little over 2 weeks, let the newly elected Members of Congress on both sides of the Capitol address many of these issues.
Now, I do not know if we will get through all the amendments and all of the debate that a solemn treaty deserves before the Senate. I really hope we can. I would also remind my friend from Massachusetts that my colleague from Arizona, certainly the most respected person on this issue on this side of the aisle, has offered a date certain of January 25, with a final vote on February 3, to the other side. That, obviously, has not been acceptable to them. By the way, that would be with the input of the newly elected Senators, not of those who are leaving.
So I look forward to continuing this debate and discussion. And who knows what other issue the majority leader may bring before the Senate--maybe a privileged message again, which would only then require one cloture vote, and we will then be forced to take another politically impactful vote.
So I tell my colleagues that we are getting tired of it. We grow weary. And it is not that we want to ``be home for Christmas.'' I spent six Christmases in a row away from home. But what it is about is responding to the American people.
Yesterday, the American people, in a resounding victory for those who voted November 2, rejected the Omnibus appropriations bill. I believe some of the issues before the Senate deserve the participation of the newly elected Members of the Senate and House.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I would like to thank my friend and colleague from Wyoming, Dr. Barrasso. It has been a great privilege for me, since he has been a Member of the Senate, to be with him side by side in a number of battles.
I am particularly proud of the work Senator Barrasso continues to do on the issue of ObamaCare. If anyone wants to really be brought up to date, I would commend his Web site, Second Opinion, that Dr. Barrasso has, and he continues to be incredibly knowledgeable and effective not only here in this body but with the American people.
As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Dr. Barrasso has taken on this issue as well, and I am pleased to be joined with him.
I would say to my colleague from Massachusetts, the distinguished chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I know there are a number of Senators who want to speak. I will try to get those lined up and time agreements so that we do not take an inordinate amount of time on this issue, and I think we can do that, say, within the next hour or so.
But this is an important amendment. This is really one of two major issues that concern many Members of this body and many Americans. One is the modernization of our nuclear inventory, which I think continues to be a subject of discussion, agreements, some disagreements, but is important, and my colleague from Arizona, Senator Kyl, of course, has been following that issue since the 1980s. I know of no one who has been more heavily involved in that side of the issue. The other is, of course, this whole issue of defensive weapons--how the provisions of the treaty affect the entire ability of the United States, unconstrained by this treaty, to move forward where it deems necessary to put defensive missile systems to protect the security of this country.
I would like to remind you how vital this is. We are living in a world where the North Koreans have nuclear weapons and missiles. The Iranians have missiles and the ability to deliver nuclear weapons. The Pakistanis have nuclear weapons. Other countries throughout the world are developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. So our concern is not so much what the Russians will do in the form of offensive nuclear weaponry-- and I will be glad to discuss Russian media reports about the Russians building a new missile and moving ICBMs to the borders of Europe and all that--but the main problem here is, can the United States, under the treaty, have the ability to put into place defensive missiles which will protect the security of the United States of America?
We all know that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them is one of the major challenges of the 21st century. So I think it is vital--it is vital--that we make it perfectly clear that there is nothing in this treaty that constrains our ability to pursue that aspect of America's defense. So it is deeply disturbing to so many of us when the preamble of the New START treaty says:
Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that ``current''--
I am going to emphasize the word ``current''--
strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties. .....
The operative word there, my friends, is ``current.''
I have been around long enough to have lived through the history of missile defense. It is not that old of an idea. In the middle of the last century, the idea that we could develop and deploy strategic defensive weapons sounded like science fiction and wishful thinking. For the most part, it was.
A few decades later, it was with this view of missile defense's fantasy that opponents of the idea mocked President Ronald Reagan, who was more committed than any American President before him to the prospect of developing viable missile defense systems--what President Reagan called his Strategic Defense Initiative, which became known to all of us as SDI.
This idea scared the Soviet leaders to death because they realized how serious he was about it and because the idea represented a threat to the very balance of terror that threatened all of mankind during the Cold War. Arms control theorists saw this terror stabilizing--mutual assured destruction as stabilizing--and believed that missile defenses could therefore be destabilizing.
As a result, the key pillar of Cold War arms control was the established interrelationship between strategic offensive weapons and strategic defensive weapons. This linkage was codified in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, among other treaties and agreements. It established that effective missile defenses, if developed, could threaten the strategic offensive capabilities of the United States and the Soviet Union. For that reason, it limited the development and deployment of such defensive weapons.
President Reagan believed that viable missile defense systems--in particular, his Strategic Defense Initiative--held out the opportunity to eliminate the threat of nuclear holocaust and thereby render nuclear weapons irrelevant. President Reagan was one of the leading proponents of a world without nuclear weapons, and he believed that it was missile defense, not just arms control agreements, that would make that world possible.
My friends, if I may take you on a trip down memory lane, the debate on that subject was spirited, it was passionate, and it was a fundamental debate that took place in this country during the 1980s.
That is why, at the Reykjavik Summit of 1986, when Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev cited the ABM Treaty as legal grounds for imposing what President Reagan believed was a critical limitation on the strategic defense initiative, the President broke off the negotiation and walked out--one of the most remarkable acts in recent history. You can imagine the initial response of the media and others to President Reagan walking out of arms control talks.
With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the evil empire, the United States and Russia were no longer mortal enemies with the means to threaten one another's existence. But the proposal of missile defense, this was an opportunity to break once and for all the long-accepted linkage, the interrelationship between strategic offensive and defensive weapons.
In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal dated December 7, 2010, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explains why breaking this linkage between offensive nuclear weapons and missile defense was so important in the post-Cold War, post-September 11 world. I quote:
When U.S. President Bush and Russian President Putin signed the Moscow Treaty in 2002, they addressed the nuclear threat by reducing offensive weapons as their predecessors had. But the Moscow Treaty was different. It came in the wake of America's 2001 withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. And for the first time, the United States and Russia reduced their offensive nuclear weapons with no agreement in place that constrained missile defenses.
Breaking the link between offensive force reductions and limits on defense marked a key moment in the establishment of a new nuclear agenda no longer focused on the Cold War face-off between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The real threat was that the world's most dangerous weapons could end up in the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes--or of terrorists who would launch attacks more devastating than 9/11. And since those very rogue states also pursued ballistic missiles, defenses would (alongside offensive weapons) be integral to the security of the United States and our allies.
This brief background helps explain a key concern I have with the New START treaty as it relates to missile defense: that because of one clause agreed to by the parties in the treaty preamble, the Russian Government could use the treaty in its present form as a tool of political pressure to limit U.S. decisions about our missile defense systems.
I have followed this issue of missile defense pretty closely while the treaty was being negotiated. As I have said before, I am concerned by the series of events that led to the treaty's handling of missile defense. First, the Senate was told that this treaty would in no way reference the development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems.
Here is what Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher said on March 29, 2010, and I quote:
The treaty does nothing to constrain missile defense. This treaty is about strategic weapons. There is no limit on what the United States can do with its missile defense systems.
But then, for some reason, after being told this treaty was not about missile defense, the Senate was then told there would be a reference to missile defense after all, but that it would only be in the preamble of the treaty which, of course, is not legally binding. That was worrisome enough, but then we saw the treaty and not only was there a reference to missile defense in the preamble, but there was also a limitation to our missile defense deployments in the body of the treaty itself in article V. This may not be a meaningful limitation, but it is a limitation nonetheless and a legally binding one at that. This sets a very troubling precedent.
What I want to focus on this afternoon is the reference to missile defense that appears in the preamble, because that language carries a lot of historical significance and strategic weight, and it has been the root of mine and other Senators' concerns about how the Russian Federation could use this treaty as a de facto veto against U.S. missile defense systems. This is what the eighth clause of the preamble says, and I quote from the preamble:
Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic arms nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.
There are many problems with this statement, and more that stem from it. First, it reestablishes--after what I told my colleagues about what happened during the Reagan administration because we worked very hard over the past--I mean over the Bush administration, and I say reestablishes because we worked very hard over the past decade to decouple these two concepts, our offensive nuclear weapons and our missile defenses. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was always terrified of the prospects of U.S. missile defense. Ever since President Reagan proposed the strategic defense initiative, the Russians have sought to limit development and deployment of our strategic arms because they knew they could never compete. They sought to bind our actions on missile defense through legal obligations in treaties, and when that didn't work, through political commitments or agreements that could be cited to confer future obligations, and thus transformed into as a political threat. In short, the Russians have always understood that U.S. missile defenses would be superior to any defensive system the Russian Federation, and the Soviet Union before it, could ever deploy, so they have been relentless in trying to block it.
It is for this reason and because the Bush administration worked so hard to break the linkage between strategic offensive and defensive weapons that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice concluded her recent op-ed which I cited earlier with the following counsel to this body:
[T]he 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.
The reestablishment of the interrelationship is one problem with this clause in the preamble, but there are others. A second problem comes in the next line which states:
that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic arms are reduced.
This is only enhancing and strengthening the linkage between our offensive nuclear weapons and our missile defenses. Because this treaty will modestly reduce our strategic nuclear arms, and if the President is serious about his vision of a nuclear-free world--and I believe he is serious--then the importance of this agreed-upon interrelationship will only deepen in the years ahead. This takes an already problematic idea and makes it even more potentially damaging.
The third problem, and the one which potentially has the most direct consequences, comes in the next line which states:
that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.
This clause lays the groundwork for the political threat the Russian Federation wants to hold over the United States with regard to its missile defense deployments. By saying that current missile defenses do not undermine the treaty's viability and effectiveness, this agreed-upon language in the preamble establishes that future missile defense deployments could undermine the treaty, thereby establishing a political argument that the Russian Federation will surely use at a future date and try to keep us from building up our missile defenses. In short, we have handed the Russian Government the political pressure they have sought for so long to bind our future decisions and actions on strategic defensive arms.
Imagine a world a few years from now when, God forbid, an Iran or North Korea or some other rogue state has deployed longer range ballistic missiles and a deployable nuclear capability much earlier than we assessed they could. Imagine we are faced with a situation where unforeseen events compel us for the sake of our national security and that of our allies to qualitatively and quantitatively build up our missile defenses to improve our current systems, or develop and deploy new systems, to counter a new and far greater threat than we expected. And then imagine that the Russian Government tells us that if we consider taking these actions that we deem to be in our national security interests, then such an action to improve our missile defenses would undermine the treaty's effectiveness and viability. This is an unacceptable constraint on U.S. decisionmaking.
As if to drive home the large potential problems that stem from this clause in the preamble, the Russian Government issued a unilateral statement at the time the treaty was signed. I realize this statement is not legally binding either, but it certainly adds to the political commitment that the Russian Federation believes the United States has made on limiting our missile defenses. This is a remarkable statement, and it deserves to be read in full, and I quote:
The treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms signed at Prague on April 8, 2010, may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative or quantitative buildup in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States of America. Consequently, the extraordinary events referred to in article XIV of the Treaty also include a buildup in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States of America such that it would give rise to a threat to the strategic nuclear force potential of the Russian Federation.
That is a very clear statement made by the Russian Government about the linkage between defensive missile systems and offensive arms. This is the Russian interpretation of what our two governments have agreed to in the preamble. They explicitly draw the connection between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms. They explicitly state that the United States is limited in its development and deployment of missile defense systems. They explicitly refer to the language in the preamble about the ``effectiveness and viability'' of the treaty in order to claim that any buildup or improvement in U.S. missile defense systems would undermine the treaty. Then they go one step further. They draw a logical connection between what was agreed to in this clause of the preamble to article XIV of the treaty, which establishes the rights of the parties to withdraw from the treaty and the conditions under which they may do so. In short, the Russian Government has effectively turned a nonbinding political agreement into the pretext of what it believes is a legal obligation under the treaty itself.
You don't have to take my word for it. Listen to what Russian leaders themselves have said. Here is Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaking on March 28, 2010:
[T]he treaty and all obligations it contains are valid only within the context of the levels which are now present in the sphere of strategic defensive weapons.
Here is Foreign Minister Lavrov again on April 6, 2010:
Russia will have the right to exit the accord if the U.S.'s buildup of its missile defense strategic potential in numbers and quality begins to considerably affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces ..... Linkage to missile defense is clearly spelled out in the accord and is legally binding.
I would remind my colleagues these are the statements of the Russian Foreign Minister. And here is everybody's favorite President, Dmitry Medvedev, speaking to the Russian Parliament on November 30--November 30, 2010.
Either we reach an agreement on missile defense and create a full-fledged cooperation mechanism, or if we can't come to a constructive agreement, we will see another escalation of the arms race. We will have to make a decision to deploy new strike systems.
Finally, here is my favorite, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking on ``Larry King Live'' on December 1, 2010:
I want you and all the American people to know this. At least those spectators who will follow our program here. It's not us who are moving forward our missiles to your territory. It's you who are planning to mount missiles at the vicinity of our borders, of our territory.
We've been told that you'll do it in order to secure against the, let's say, Iranian threat. But such a threat as of now does not exist. Now if the rudders and counter missiles will be deployed in the year 2012 along our borders, or 2015, they will work against our nuclear potential there, our nuclear arsenal. And certainly, that worries us. And we are obliged to take some actions in response.
Unfortunately, at the time the treaty was signed, after agreeing to this problematic clause in the preamble, the U.S. negotiators did not use the opportunity to make a unilateral statement of their own to decisively and unequivocally discredit the Russian Government's claims. Instead, this is the statement the U.S. Government issued in response to the statement I read, the signing statement:
The United States of America takes note of the Statement on Missile Defense by the Russian Federation. The United States missile defense systems are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia. The United States missile defense systems would be employed to defend the United States against limited missile launches, and to defend its deployed force, allies and partners against regional threats. The United States intends to continue improving and deploying its missile defense systems in order to defend itself against limited attack and as part of our collaborative approach to strengthening stability in key regions.
My friends, I understand diplomacy, and I understand statements that are equivocal. That certainly stands out as one of those.
We could have stated that the development and deployment of U.S. missile
defenses are in no way limited by the treaty, its preamble or anything the Russian Government says about them. We could have stated that the United States does not recognize decisions about its missile defense systems as a legitimate and valid reason for the Russian Federation to withdraw from the treaty, as is its right under article XIV. We could have stated affirmatively that the United States will continue to make both qualitative and quantitative improvements to our missile defense systems, regardless of whether the Russian Federation threatens to or actually chooses to withdraw from the new START treaty. We could have said all that and more. Instead, we simply took note of what the Russians had to say and then spoke passively about our intentions, without addressing the heart of the matter.
What does all this mean? What it means is that the Senate needs to fix the problem presented by this clause in the treaty's preamble. One way to do that--the easiest way--is to simply strike the eighth clause from the preamble text. That is what this proposed amendment would do. It will remove any recognition of an interrelationship between offensive nuclear weapons and missile defense, and it would undercut the logical and political foundation of the Russian unilateral statements, as well as the clearly and repeatedly stated Russian position that this treaty imposes a legally binding limitation on U.S. missile defenses.
I see I am joined on the floor by my friend and cosponsor of this amendment, the Senator from Wyoming. Again, I take this opportunity to thank him for taking the lead in offering this amendment within the Committee on Foreign Relations during the markup of the resolution of ratification. I have had the opportunity to travel overseas with the Senator from Wyoming, to Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and many other places. I appreciate his consistent leadership on matters of national security.
I ask unanimous consent that, since it is our amendment, he be recognized next.
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Mr. McCAIN. Will my colleague yield for a question?
Mr. KYL. I will be happy to yield to my colleague.
Mr. McCAIN. The amendment, as you know, strikes the language in the preamble. There are some who allege that a letter from the President--a strong letter from the President--would suffice to address this issue. I wonder what the view is of the Senator from Arizona as to how binding and how impactful that would be as opposed to the existing language which exists in the preamble?
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for the question because it sets up a perfect reason why this amendment is necessary. The Russians interpret the preamble as the basis for their legal argument that they can withdraw from the treaty if we do what Secretary Gates has said we are going to do. What would a letter from the President potentially say? Either it is going to say we intend to go forward and develop and deploy the missile defenses--which would be seen by the Russians as contrary to their national interests, their supreme national interests, thus further laying a foundation for them to withdraw from the treaty--or the President would confirm the briefing at Lisbon and confirm the U.S. signing statement and say that we don't intend to deploy those, we only intend to deal with limited or regional threats, so the Russians have nothing to worry about. The Senate would be on record in an understanding accompanying the treaty that confirmed all of this. The Senate would at least be on record. But that doesn't commit the President.
I think the only answer to avoid the confusion and to avoid any future President having pressure from the Russians that they are going to withdraw is to just remove the language. That is the beauty by the author of the amendment--it pulls the thorn so the sting no longer can exist.
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Mr. McCAIN. While the Senator still has the floor, one additional question for my colleague. As we all know, there is nothing more important, probably, that comes before this body than the ratification of treaties. Our Founding Fathers reserved it for the Senate alone.
This treaty is obviously of significant importance--not just the treaty itself but the impact it has around the world. There is certainly something to the allegations that are made, the comments that are made that this could affect U.S.-Russian relations. I think the Senator from South Carolina and you and I--every Member of this body is very aware of the absolute importance of this treaty and for us to make the decision strictly based on the merits or demerits of this treaty.
The reason I ask my colleague this question is that allegations continue to swirl that there is going to be a vote for or against because of another piece of legislation or for other reasons, for other political reasons. I reject that allegation. I wonder if my colleague from Arizona does as well. I know every Member of this body is making a judgment on this treaty on its merits and their view of its merits or demerits and its importance to the future security of this Nation. And I hope, my colleague from Arizona, that I cleared that up, and I hope my colleague from Arizona will too.
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I could not agree more with my colleague from Arizona. There have been rumors swirling around here for 3 weeks--for example, when the tax legislation was being negotiated--that somehow or other there was some deal in the works to trade the extension of the existing tax rates for support of the START treaty. There was never any kind of a deal like that going on. No, this treaty stands or falls on its own merits.
The other thing I would say, however, is that I have made the point for a long time that one of the impediments to ratifying this treaty or to debating it and considering it in a meaningful way was the intersection of all of the other business that was being put before the Senate, much of it very partisan, and that it was very difficult. My colleague from Arizona was right in the middle of a sentence a while ago when he was interrupted by another colleague to say that we have some intervening business we have to do. That is the problem. If we are going to debate and consider the treaty and be able to do it in the thoughtful and focused way it really deserves, then we should not have all these other items come popping in and out of the Senate. We are on the treaty for 2 days and then going to be off of it for 2 days, back on it again for another day, and meanwhile now we are voting on this and that and the other thing. That is what I was contending would preclude us from ever really getting to the point where we had time to do the treaty and to do it right. I think my predictions were very correct.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, in deference to Senator Lugar, I will be very brief. Also, Senator Sessions is here who would like to speak, as well as Senator Barrasso again, so I will be very brief. I believe the Senator from Illinois is also here.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I wonder if I could ask my colleague--we are at a quarter to 5 now. I wanted to get a sense, because colleagues are asking me, on our side at least, where we stand. Would it be possible to get a time agreement on this?
Mr. McCAIN. I regret we can't at this time. This is one of the seminal aspects of whether the United States is going to ratify this treaty. To have a time agreement, after all of the fooling around we have been doing on the DREAM Act, on New York City, on all of these other issues that have taken up our time, we will not have a time agreement from this side until all Members on this side have had an opportunity to express their views on this issue.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, if I may, I was simply asking a question. Before I yield the floor, let me just say I am not trying to reduce the level of debate. I am just trying to get a sense of how much time we might need. I wish for no Senator to be cut off. It seems to me we ought to have a sense of how many Senators want to speak, of how long they need, and the normal procedure in the Senate is to try to establish that so we can pin down where we are heading.
All I am trying to figure out--let me ask the Senator two questions. No. 1, I would ask the Senator, does he think that sometime in the near term he could have a sense of how many Senators are going to speak and we could try to pin that down. I would ask them that, Mr. President, without losing my right to the floor.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, was the floor yielded before the Senator spoke?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. It is the understanding of the Chair that the Senator from Massachusetts has the floor.
Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Chair. Under any circumstances, I wanted to clarify that. I am glad to answer any question my friend from Massachusetts has. I cannot tell him at this time.
What the Senator from Massachusetts has done is sparked a strong response from this side. So this is not a situation where we come down and everybody just gives a statement. I had not planned on talking again, until I heard the comment of the Senator from Massachusetts. I am sure the Senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl, and the Senator from Wyoming feel the same way. I will try to get a list of speakers. I certainly cannot tell the Senator from Massachusetts when we will be done. Obviously, in the spirit of debate, I have to challenge the assertions of the Senator from Massachusetts because that is what I think this ratification process should be all about. I am sure my colleague understands that.
I want to emphasize that I am not trying to drag this out. I want to make sure, because this is one of the most important parts of this debate--I don't want it to be short-circuited. I promise the Senator from Massachusetts that I am not trying to drag this out.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I completely understand and accept the Senator's desire to have this robust debate, and I welcome it. I agree that some of these issues are contentious and there are different points of view. This is exactly what we ought to be debating. I am in favor of that.
Mr. McCAIN. I will try to get a limit on the number of speakers.
Mr. KERRY. I appreciate that. I am trying to help colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are trying to figure out where we are headed.
Secondly, I understand the powerful feelings on the other side about this particular issue. I thought we had addressed it. We certainly tried to. In fact, we took an amendment--where is Senator Risch's amendment? Was it Senator DeMint's?
We accepted an amendment to the resolution of ratification from, I think, Senator DeMint. I have it right here--no. Here it is. It is on missile defense. This was very important because Senator Risch--as he came to the floor today--had talked about this entire way in which we deal with it. No, that's not it. This is a declaration--if I can say to my colleague from Arizona, Senator Risch--DeMint proposed this amendment, and we accepted it.
It is the sense of the Senate: A paramount obligation of the United States Government is to provide for the defense of the American people, deployed members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and United States allies against nuclear attacks to the best of its ability. Policies based on mutual assured destruction, or intentional vulnerability, can be contrary to the safety and security of both countries. The United States and the Russian Federation share a common interest in moving cooperatively as soon as possible away from a strategic relationship based on mutually assured destruction. In a world where biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them, are proliferating, strategic stability can be enhanced by strategic defensive measures. Accordingly, the United States is and will remain free to reduce their vulnerability to attack by constructing a layered missile defense system capable of countering missiles of all ranges. The United States will welcome steps by the Russian Federation also to adopt a fundamental strategic posture.
That is very powerful language, in my judgment. I am very prepared, if Senator McCain will work with me, to try to find a way that doesn't kill the treaty but that puts in the language that embraces the thoughts that we are trying to convey with respect to our rights.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I will be brief. I know Senator Lugar is waiting, as are two or three of my colleagues. I appreciate what the Senator from Massachusetts just said because it is the best argument for this amendment I have seen.
It says the preamble is nothing, meaningless, doesn't have any effect. If that is the case, then let's get rid of it. Fine, let's throw it away. In fact, he called it a throwaway. Isn't that true, I ask the Senator from Wyoming?
Mr. BARRASSO. Yes, Mr. President. That is exactly what I see here. The senior Senator from Massachusetts said--and this is a transcript from a few minutes ago. He said that the idea that we are going to try to take out of here is nonbinding, nonlegal, completely a throwaway statement.
Mr. McCAIN. Then what could be the problem? Let's get rid of it.
The second point, of course, the Senator from Massachusetts gave various quotes from Russian leaders about the whole aspect of missile defense. Yet, again, on December 1, 16 days ago, Vladimir Putin, speaking on ``Larry King Live''--I am not making this up--said this:
I want you and all the American people to know this. .....It's you who are planning to mount missiles at the vicinity of our borders, of our territory. We've been told that you'll do it in order to secure against the, let's say, Iranian threat. But such a threat as of now does not exist. Now if the rudders--
Whatever that means--
and the counter missiles will be deployed in the year 2012 along our borders, or 2015, they will work against our nuclear potential there, our nuclear arsenal. And certainly that worries us. And we are obliged to take some actions in response.
That was 16 days ago from the Prime Minister and, we know, the most powerful man in Russia. ``We are obliged to take some actions in response.''
Of course, one day earlier, President Medvedev said:
Either we reach an agreement on missile defense and create a full-fledged cooperation mechanism, or if we can't come to a constructive agreement, we will see another escalation of the arms race. We will have to make a decision to deploy new strike systems.
That was 17 days ago. Who are we to believe? What are we to believe? Well, we can clarify it. Take that out of the preamble, and we can clarify that. There are other statements--one by the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov--and on and on. I don't think there is any doubt.
Also, there are recent press reports saying that ``Russia develops new indestructable ICBM to replace Satan.'' That is on 16 December. There is another news report that says that ``Russia has moved Russian missiles; fuels U.S. worries.'' That is the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with longstanding pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms control treaty.
One of the reasons this is very important, I argue, is that, back in 1991, the Russians agreed they would not move any of their tactical nuclear weapons. That was a commitment they made.
So, again, I am befuddled by the reluctance of the Senator from Massachusetts to just simply remove this preamble.
Finally, I will mention the difference between this administration and START I on this same issue. In fact, if you look at the statement the United States made, it is interesting. It says:
The United States intends to continue improving and deploying its missile defense systems in order to defend itself against limited attack--
That word ``limited'' is interesting--
and as part of our collaborative approach to strengthening stability in the key regions.
Now, contrast that with what the United States said at the time of the ratification of START I. The United States said:
While the United States cannot circumscribe the Soviet withdrawal from the START Treaty, if the Soviet Union believes its supreme interests are jeopardized, the full exercise by the United States of its legal rights under the ABM treaty, as we have discussed with the Soviet Union in the past, would not constitute a basis for such withdrawal. The United States will be signing the START Treaty and submitting it to the United States Senate for advice and consent with this view. In addition, the provisions for withdrawal from the START Treaty based on supreme national interests clearly envision that such withdrawal can only be justified by extraordinary events that have jeopardized the parties' supreme interests. The Soviet statements on a future hypothetical that a U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty could create such conditions are without legal or military foundation.
I ask my colleagues to look at the differences between the two comments. Finally, I emphasize, again, there is clearly room for some disagreement as to what the Russian intentions are. Should it not be clarified? Should we not have it clear and ask the Russians? Couldn't we ask them tonight and say: What are your intentions regarding missile defense systems? There is contradiction.
On ``Larry King Live,'' your Prime Minister made a strong statement about it, so has the Foreign Minister and others. We have constant communications with the Russians. We can clarify some of this if we just ask the Russians for a statement of clarification.
I hope the Senator from Massachusetts might do that. That also would not change the fact that, given the contradictions in the Russian statements, we should get rid of that meaningless, throwaway provision that this amendment requires.
I thank my colleagues and yield to the Senator from Indiana.
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Mr. GRAHAM. To my friend from Arizona, Senator McCain, are you aware of an effort to repeal the don't ask, don't tell policy, that would allow no Republican amendment, that could be as early as tomorrow or this weekend?
Mr. McCAIN. I would say, Madam President, that not only on the don't ask, don't tell has the tree been filled but also on the DREAM Act. I have obviously been heavily involved in immigration issues for some years, including things that have happened including the murder of a Border Patrol agent just in the last couple days in Arizona, obviously by someone from the drug cartels. So, yes, there will be, again, a vote with no amendments allowed, again, on either one of those pieces of legislation.
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