Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:  Chris Dodd
Date: Dec. 22, 2010
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DODD. Madam President, with some reluctance, I rise to talk about this issue. Having given what I thought was my last set of remarks on the floor a week or so ago, I thought I would let it lie there rather than come over. But this is such an important matter. In fact, other than amending the Constitution or declarations of war, I don't know of a more important matter than an arms control agreement like this one.

I will begin by commending our colleague from Massachusetts and our colleague from Indiana. They have spent months and months on this, as has the administration, in terms of their negotiations with the Russians on this question. An awful lot has gone into this.

I have been involved in a lot of lameduck sessions over the years, and I can usually predict what happens during lameduck sessions--not much, unfortunately. But that is the way it is. After an election--and rarely does an election produce the same results in terms of membership coming out of the election as you have going in. This last election cycle is no exception. Obviously, the party that has gained seats or control of one Chamber or the other would prefer to wait until a later date. I understand that.

As I said, I have watched lameduck sessions. I am hard-pressed to name one that has produced much because of what happened and what goes on in these matters. So I begin with that observation.

There are matters, it seems to me, that rise beyond the normal predictions of lameduck sessions. I think this is one. Hence, the reason I decided to express some views on this.

I don't claim to be an expert in this area. Other Members spend far more time on this than I. I don't know all of the details. I have looked at it and have read about it and I have listened to some of the debate. What motivated me to come and ask my colleagues to consider the moment is the fact that so many of the people we respect, who have been engaged over the years in the conduct of arms control and negotiations, almost without exception--and this is one of those rare occurrences where a cross-section of some of the finest leaders this country has produced in the last 100 years, who have been deeply involved in arms control issues, have joined together in a common cause to ask us to ratify and support this treaty.

It is unique in many ways. So whatever expertise or knowledge some bring or don't bring to this debate, I think it warrants our attention that former President George H.W. Bush, former President Clinton, Secretaries of State Albright, Baker, Christopher, Kissinger, Powell, Rice, Schultz, Brown, Carlucci, Cohen, Perry, and Schlesinger--this is a cross-section of both Republicans and Democrats who have been deeply involved in the very subject matter of this debate, all of whom--every one of them--have said do not miss this moment to get this done.

For those of us who are knowledgeable, or less than knowledgeable about the subject matter--and I am not suggesting that because others have said we ought to do this, we should automatically do it, but others have said it is worthy of our support. It is subject matter that is critical to our country, to the national security of our Nation, and we ought to be able to take the time, in my view, despite the interruptions that have occurred on other matters that are important as well. I don't minimize that.

If you ask me, of all the issues we are debating that are on the present list, none comes close to this issue of arms control and this START treaty. This is, again, one of those rare moments that occur here when I think there is at least a strong potential of consensus--largely a consensus over the notion that we ought to ratify this agreement.

I recommend that my colleagues read the statement of Senator RICHARD LUGAR where he went into great detail and depth--it was a lengthy statement he made about why this particular treaty is worthy of our support, and he anticipated some of the arguments against it. It is as thorough and comprehensive an analysis of why this agreement is important and why it is deserving of our support as Senators, regardless of party and the moment--being in a lameduck session, with other issues that I know have caused great division in this body and are not likely to be resolved. Maybe one or two will, but I doubt it. But this matter transcends that.

I rise, therefore, to offer my thoughts on the matter and to commend Senator Kerry and his staff, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, DICK LUGAR, and others who have been a part of this. There has been 10 long months of debate and discussion, and we are finally able to move forward on this issue. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had over 20 hearings on this treaty. It has been analyzed and debated for over a year now. Senators KERRY and LUGAR and their staffs have worked in good faith to address all of the concerns of both sides of the aisle. The facts and issues are clear to everybody. I think it is time for us to support this agreement.

I commend President Obama, Secretaries Clinton and Gates, as I mentioned, and the entire national security team for negotiating this vitally important treaty with our Russian counterparts and for providing the Senate with extensive information.

As a member of the Foreign Relations committee, I recall last summer Senator Kerry deferring to several of our colleagues and agreeing to not even vote in committee on this matter but to wait until we came back--leave a little time to analyze and think about all of this. We did that. Then the issue was we would vote on it when we came back after the break. Well, don't do that because we have an election coming up, and it could politicize it. Wait until after the election, and there will be a lameduck session and we can do it then. And here we are.

Again, I respect immensely how Senators KERRY and LUGAR have conducted themselves, respecting the legitimate issues raised. But merely because an issue is legitimate doesn't mean it can't be answered. Ultimately, you have to vote. Nobody ever anticipates absolute unanimity, that there wouldn't be those who felt this agreement was lacking in one aspect or another. The way to express that is vote against it. Those of us who feel this is the right thing to do ought not to be denied the ability to express our support for it.

Historically, weapons treaties in the Senate receive wide bipartisan support. The original START treaty was debated during the collapse of the Soviet Union. It reduced nuclear weapons from 10,000 to 6,000. It was adopted by a vote of 93 to 6 in 5 days. START II, which came 4 years

later, took only 2 days of floor time, and it passed 87 to 4. Collectively, you have 9 days, and two major START treaties that were able to be adopted.

There is no reason the New START should not enjoy the same bipartisan support--maybe not in the same numbers. Nonetheless, it is time for us to act. Since the expiration of the original START treaty in December 2009, as you have heard over and over again, no verification of Russia's nuclear weapons has occurred.

Simply put, this endangers our national security. The longer we fail to verify, the greater the danger our country faces.

Inspectors on the ground and verification safeguards allow our intelligence community to have a better understanding and more knowledge of Russia's nuclear arsenal. As President Reagan famously said, ``Trust, but verify.'' At the moment, we can only trust. I think we all agree that it is time to verify, as well.

The United States and Russia maintain over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Therefore, it is vital that we take the lead in securing these weapons to create a world with less risk of nuclear devastation, not to, of course, mention reducing the nefarious threat of nuclear terrorism. This new treaty improves upon and enhances the original START treaty signed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, ratified in 1994.

I remind my colleagues again that President Bush supports this agreement. One of the authors of the START treaty signed in 1991 urges us Senators--Democrats, Republicans, and Independents--to support this effort.

The New START treaty establishes lower limits--and I know you have heard a lot of this--for U.S. and Russian nuclear forces of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

It will also limit to 800 the total number of deployed and nondeployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

All of the new limit numbers were verified and are strongly supported by the Department of Defense. Flexibility will be a key result of the new treaty. It will give the United States the flexibility in deploying our own arsenal and in deciding what is put on land, in the air, and at sea.

In addition, this treaty will improve verification and inspection systems for Russia's nuclear weapons which have not been monitored since the treaty expired a year ago. The new verification measures are less costly and complex than the original treaty, I might add.

Let me quote Secretary Gates on this treaty, who said it ``establishes an extensive verification regime to ensure that Russia is complying with its treaty obligations. These include short-notice inspections of both deployed and nondeployed systems, verification of the numbers of warheads actually carried on Russian strategic missiles and unique identifiers that will track--for the first time--all accountable strategic nuclear delivery systems.''

That is our own Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Defense of President Bush, and now the current Secretary of Defense. There has been a lot of talk about missile defense in recent months. Some have claimed that START will in some way inhibit the ability of the United States to defend ourselves in this regard. I urge you to read Senator Lugar's comments about this issue. He went into great detail to examine this allegation and did so in the most thorough manner.

I urge my colleagues, if they have any issues, read Senator Lugar's comments about this. Those claims are simply not true. New START does not constrain the United States from developing and deploying defenses against ballistic missiles. Secretary Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, and Lieutenant General Reilly, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency all concur on this point.

Again, I respect your knowledge, your expertise, and how much you have looked into this. But when you have a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Missile Defense Agency all saying you are wrong on this, respectfully, I suggest maybe when it comes to deciding which side of the argument you are on, I think history will demonstrate that relying on the people who are deeply involved in this ought to outweigh the concerns raised by others.

Concerns have also been raised over modernization of our nuclear weapons infrastructure stockpile. That is not an illegitimate issue. Senator Kyl raised this as an important point. I think the President has sought to address these concerns. I don't know if he has done it to the complete satisfaction of those who raised it. He has committed $80 billion over the next decade to modernize our nuclear weapons. This is more than a reasonable sum, I am told by those who are knowledgeable about this. Once the President requests these funds, it is the job, obviously, of those who will be in Congress to appropriate the money.

I spoke with Senator Feinstein a number of days ago, and others--those in a position to be responsible for this--and they have indicated they will support this and make a strong case for it.

Madam President, this treaty will ensure that we continue to build upon our close relationship with Russia as well--not an insignificant issue--in preventing the spread of dangerous nuclear weapons and creating a more stable and secure world at a time when we would all acknowledge it is becoming less and less so, as we have all painfully seen, even in things like the most recent WikiLeaks situation that occurred on cable traffic.

There are growing problems in Iran and North Korea, and all of the concerns we have about these hot spots around the world.

To be able to bring some stability and respect in this relationship with Russia could not be more important at this hour. So beyond the obvious provisions of the treaty, it is critically important to understand the larger context as well.

Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar have very eloquently described that for our colleagues over the last several days. So there are far more important questions in this treaty than just the provisions contained in it, as important as they are.

This treaty will ensure we continue to build on those close relationships. Our two countries have been collaborating to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons for decades. In the tradition of Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and both President Bushes, this treaty furthers that critical strategic partnership between ourselves and Russia.

Again, 90 percent--90 percent--of the world's nuclear arsenals are controlled by our two countries, and the ability to be able to make some significant reductions not only lessens the tensions between our two nations, but the one thing I think most of us fear is having these weapons end up in the wrong hands. And we know as we are here this evening, on this evening a few days before the Christmas holiday, that there are those tonight who are desperately trying to get their hands on this material, and they are determined to do it. We should take advantage of this moment with a treaty that is as well thought out as this and is supported by a broad cross-section of experts in our Nation and not run the risk that we would allow those who seek to do great harm to us to gain access to these weapons because we failed to move.

Madam President, I fear what will happen if we don't. And my colleagues know what can happen after January 6: The place changes, and the votes may or may not be there. I worry deeply about that. So this is more than just a question of the Christmas holiday. We also know what can happen in a few weeks.

Our two countries have been collaborating to reduce the threat of weapons for decades, and in the tradition, as I said, of those who have come before us, this ought to move forward.

The New START treaty has widespread bipartisan support among current and former military and diplomatic leadership. Some of the finest minds that have ever negotiated these issues have begged and urged us to support this agreement. I mention them again, going back to former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and George Shultz--that goes back over the last generation or more of our diplomats--and Secretaries of Defense Harold Brown, Frank Carlucci, Bill Cohen, a former colleague of ours, Bill Perry, and Jim Schlesinger. Again, I say respectfully to my colleagues, these are people who have studied this, who know these issues and have dealt with them in the past. To his great credit, George H.W. Bush, who negotiated that START treaty back in 1991, has urged us to do the same. It is not insignificant when you have that kind of endorsement of this kind of an agreement that this body should ignore it or miss the opportunity to act on it.

It is not every day that we have the chance to avert Armageddon. Nothing short of that is at stake, in my view, and that is the reason this is worthy of our time and attention and our vote, even at this time of the year. In fact, one might make the case, what better time of year to make this case than in this holiday season where we talk about peace in the world to all men of good will?

So, Madam President, I urge my colleagues to take whatever time we have in these next few days to cast a vote and leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren and others that in a tough time in our country when we couldn't come to agreement on much, that on this issue--the one that transcends all of politics, transcends all of ideology--we can come together as others have who have urged us to support this effort, that we do the same in this Chamber in these coming days.

I congratulate my colleagues for their work.

I yield the floor.


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