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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I too am opposing the ratification of this New START treaty because I think it makes us less secure, not more secure, as a nation. Of course, that has to be the ultimate test.

A toughly negotiated, balanced treaty with Russia which allowed for adequate and reliable inspections and data exchange could make us more secure. But this is not such a treaty. It is clear to me that President Obama went into negotiations willing to give up almost anything for a treaty, and that basic posture produced what it always will--a bad deal for us.

The proponents of the treaty suggest as much when they lay out as their top arguments for ratification: a better relationship with Russia, the help from Russia on other issues that ratification could engender, and progress with world opinion.

I think it is dangerous to count on any of that or to look at all beyond the four corners of the treaty--the pros and cons of the details and the substance of the treaty itself.

When I look within the four corners of the treaty, I am particularly concerned about four cons of the treaty.

First, serious roadblocks to missile defense: I think it is a fundamental mistake and a dangerous precedent for any treaty on offensive arms to even mention missile defense, and Russia has made it clear that any major progress on U.S. missile defense will cause them to leave the treaty. Particularly with President Obama in office, this creates real political obstacles to the full missile defense I support and the American people support in great numbers. Indeed, President Obama has already abandoned our missile defense sites in Eastern Europe to help produce an agreement on this treaty by the Russians.

Second, fundamentally imbalanced arms reductions: In this treaty, we reduce our nuclear arms significantly; Russia stays where they already are. Meanwhile, we still aren't getting to the issue of tactical weapons, a category where Russia has a huge 10-to-1 advantage. We have talked about that for decades, and we still aren't getting there. Clearly, when the United States has leverage to commit Russia to reduce their tactical nuclear weapons as we do right now before this treaty, and those nuclear weapons are the most vulnerable to end up in terrorists' hands, we must use that leverage and not throw it away for U.S. and global security. Instead, proponents of this treaty argue that a further treaty addressing tactical nuclear weapons in the future will materialize, but the leverage we have to get there is being given up, essentially, with this treaty.

Third, inability to verify: This treaty does not give us the inspections and data we need to verify Russian compliance, and we know Russia has cheated on every previous arms control treaty with us. Verification is clearly less under New START than in START I, but it now needs to be greater because the nuclear deterrent under this treaty would be much smaller and thus produce much less room for error.

Fourth and finally, major but ultimately inadequate progress on nuclear modernization: Now, major progress has been made during the ratification debate on the administration's commitment and concrete plans for nuclear modernization. I thank everyone who has helped produce that, particularly the leader in that effort, Senator JON KYL, for his work which, again, did produce real progress. But, ultimately, neither the specificity of the administration's commitment, including on the nuclear triad issue, nor the proposed schedule is adequate to our security needs, so I will certainly continue fighting to get where we need to be.

So, in closing, I urge my colleagues to look hard at this treaty and to ask the only ultimate question: Does it make us less secure or more secure? I think clearly for the four major reasons I have outlined, and others, it makes us less secure, and we need to do far better.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor


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