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Treaty with Russia on Measures for Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I want to speak for a few minutes about the START treaty. Before I do, there is another issue that has been debated on this floor that we are going to continue debating over the next several days, and that is the issue of the funding of the Federal Government. There is an omnibus bill that has been laid out there now, which is something that happens from time to time that is simply not the way business ought to be done in this body.

As we move into the debate on the omnibus bill, there are a lot of us who want to see, obviously, the government remaining open and running at full speed. All of us within this body want to make sure as we do that, we do it the right way.

Frankly, to run in an omnibus bill at the last minute out here that has thousands of earmarks--some of which folks like me requested months and months ago, and until 2 or 3 days ago had no idea those requests would be honored and are now included in there, amounting to billions of dollars. With the issues we have now, including the election that took place on November 2 where the American people spoke loudly and clearly about the way Washington spends money, this is not the way to do business.

I intend to vote against the omnibus bill. I will speak more about that at a later date.


I want to speak for a minute on the START treaty, and I want to start off by commending both Senator KERRY and Senator Lugar who, as the chairman and ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, have worked long and hard on this particular measure.

This treaty was signed by the President after negotiations were completed back in the spring. By the time we got the text, and then the additions to the text, I would say it was probably into April or May, whenever it was.

Since that time, I know both Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar have worked very hard. They have been open for discussion. I have had several discussions with Senator Lugar about it and have explained my problems with it early on to him. He has been very receptive. I received another letter from him today further explaining some of the issues that are out there.

But that is an indication of how complex this issue is. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee, I have had the opportunity to have any number of briefings. I have been in hearing after hearing. I have been in meeting after meeting with members of the administration as well as outside experts who believe this is right, and those who believe it is wrong. I have been involved in phone calls. I have traveled abroad to visit with our friends in both France and Great Britain to learn about what they are doing with respect to their nuclear inventory.

It is not like folks like me who have to make a decision whether to support this have not been working on it and trying to understand the complexities of this treaty. Gosh, those Members of the Senate who do not serve on Foreign Relations, Armed Services, or Intelligence do not have the benefit of the extensive briefings those who serve on those committees have had, and they have been trying to understand the operatives that are involved in this treaty also.

My concerns were laid out to Senator Lugar early on in a letter. I have been very clear in conversations and hearings, including in an extensive conversation that I had with my longtime good friend, Senator Sam Nunn, who, along with Senator Lugar, in my mind are the two godfathers of the Russia-United States nuclear issue.

The issues that are out there are in the process of being dealt with and resolved--but we are not there, in my mind. I cannot speak for the other 59 folks here, but I can tell you this: There are five major issues I have been concerned with from day one.

First is missile defense and what impact this treaty is going to have on missile defense. I will be honest, I expressed concern about it, including in a hearing in the Armed Services Committee with Secretary Gates, who is an individual for whom I have such great admiration and respect--we can have a difference of opinion on policy from time to time, but I know where Secretary Gates stands when it comes to the national security interests of the United States.

In response to a question I asked him in an Armed Services hearing, he satisfied me with respect to the missile defense issue. Then, like happens with so many other issues when there is a complex treaty like this, we have comments that were made in Portugal in recent weeks about phase 4 of our missile defense plan that all of a sudden raises another issue, or at least a potential issue, that has to be addressed and has to be resolved, in my mind, before I can vote for a treaty I want to support. I continue to work through that particular issue.

The second issue is the issue of modernization of the weapons in the United States. We can look ourselves in the eye, Members of this body and Members of the House, and take part of the blame. We have not funded a modernization program for the updating of nuclear weapons of the United States. Now we have called on the administration to make a commitment, and that commitment is going to have to be a financial commitment as well as a policy commitment. To the credit of the administration, they have worked in a very diligent way--I know with the prodding of Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar--to address this issue both from a budgetary standpoint as well as a policy standpoint. Again, it is not just this administration that has to be involved. It is future administrations as well as future Congresses that are going to have to address that issue.

As we decide whether to vote for or against this treaty, we have to satisfy ourselves that future Congresses, future administrations are going to do that. How do we resolve that? I do not yet know. But it is another issue that we have to go through in our minds and satisfy ourselves on the issue of modernization before we can vote for it.

Third is an issue of verification. This is probably the major issue, at least in my mind. The Senator from Illinois just spoke about the fact that we have gone for a year or so now without having the opportunity, under the treaty that expired in 2009, to look at what the Russians are doing and likewise to give the Russians the opportunity to look at what we are doing.

It is important when there is a complex issue like this, and an issue where you have to trust the other side to do certain things, that you have the opportunity to verify after you enter into that trusting relationship with them.

The verification process that is set forth in this New START treaty is frankly significantly different from the verification process that was in the treaty that just expired. There are reasons it needed to be different, and I understand that. But there still is an issue relative to: Do we have the right kind of verification measures in place in this treaty to be able to satisfy our community, both the defense community and the intelligence community, that this treaty gives us everything we need to have to be sure that the Russians are doing what they are supposed to do?

In that vein, one way we are going about the issue of making sure the verification requirements that are set forth in here are adequate is to look at the National Intelligence Estimate that was put out 2 months ago, 6 weeks ago--whenever it was. When it did come out, I sat down and read through it. It is a rather detailed document that sets forth each of the issues in the minds of the intelligence community. And those concerns are dealt with in an appropriate way. There are still some questions in my mind with the classified portion of this treaty that I have to be satisfied with.

I started going through the NIE again, and over the weekend, when it looks like we are going to have plenty of hours to sit down with not much going on, I am going to do that. Hopefully, I am going to satisfy myself on the classified portions.

Last, what is not in this treaty is just as much of concern to me as what is in the treaty; that is, a total lack of addressing the issue of tactical weapons. I understand, because I have asked the question to the State Department, to the intelligence community, the Defense Department--about this issue of tactical weapons. Their rationale is, look, we cannot deal with tactical weapons until we get this treaty agreed to and signed and deal with the strategic side. Then we can deal with the tactical side.

I don't buy that. I think there was an opportunity that was missed. We are dealing with a country that has fewer strategic weapons than we have. They are going to be huge beneficiaries under this bill from the standpoint of the sheer numbers. On the other hand, they have hundreds and hundreds, perhaps even thousands--we really don't know--more tactical weapons than what we have. It is the tactical weapons that bother me just as much as the strategic weapons because the tactical weapon can be put in a suitcase and delivered to a location that could destroy something domestically, or U.S. assets somewhere else around the world, or people.

The lack of addressing the tactical weapons issue is a problem. Is it enough to say we should not do this? Maybe not. But there are those of us who are wrestling with the issue and trying to do it in the right way. I will have to say that in concluding my eighth year here, I have never had to vote in favor of a treaty that was this complex, this important, and had this much influence on what is going to happen with respect to the safety and security of our country for my children and grandchildren.

I commend Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar and their staffs for a tremendous amount of work and their openness. We have never asked a question they have not attempted to respond to. I am hopeful, over the next couple days, a week, however long we are going to be here, if we conclude it or if we conclude it next year, that we will be able to ultimately come together as a body and address this issue in a right and positive way.

I yield the floor.


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