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Mr. KERRY. Our colleagues are fighting against a phantom. All of this argument they have been going on for several days with is about language that has no binding impact on this treaty whatsoever. Senator Kyl acknowledged that yesterday. He also acknowledged that if you change it, it requires this treaty to go back to the Russian Government, and then we don't have this treaty. We don't have any verification for whatever number of months that follow. I will come back to that.
A moment ago, Senator Kyl said the Russians didn't want to continue the verification methods of START. He somehow insinuates that because they didn't want to continue it, what we have here is something less than what we ought to have for ourselves.
We didn't want to continue the verification and process of START as it existed. In fact, the Bush administration was told that. He knows that. This is phantom debate, what we have going on here. The target is the treaty itself, not this language, because this language doesn't have any legal binding impact on the treaty. In a moment, I will share what impact it has.
Our friends on the other side of the aisle are supplanting their judgment for the judgment of Secretary Gates. We have the right to do that, and you can do that. But I ask people to weigh whether Secretary Gates, who was appointed by George Bush and held over by President Obama, has anything except the interests of our country at heart when he makes this statement in his testimony:
So, you know, the Russians can say what they want, but, as Secretary Clinton said, these unilateral statements are totally outside the treaty. They have no standing. They are not binding. They never have been.
Do you know what the Soviets said at the U.S.-Soviet negotiations on nuclear space arms concerning the interrelationship between strategic defensive weapons compliance with the treaty--and this is START I. They said:
In connection with the treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on reduction and limitations of strategic defensive arms, the Soviet side states the following: This treaty may be effective and viable only under conditions of compliance with the treaty between the United States and the USSR on the limitation of antiballistic missile systems as signed May 26, 1972.
That was their signing statement, just like this signing statement. Guess what. The United States of America saw our national security interests in getting out from under the ABM Treaty. We got out from under the ABM treaty. This language, just like the language we are debating today, meant nothing at all. They stayed in the treaty. They didn't pull out. So we are debating something that has no impact whatsoever on this treaty.
Let me go a little further. Secretary Gates said further:
So from the very beginning of this process, more than 40 years ago, the Russians have hated missile defense.
It's because we can afford it and they can't. And we're going to be able to build a good one, and are building a good one, and they probably aren't.
And they don't want to devote the resources to it, so they try and stop us from doing it, through political means. This treaty doesn't accomplish that for them.
My God, after several days, either the Secretary of Defense--and how about LTG Patrick O'Reilly, whose job it is to defend the United States against missile attack. He is the man who runs this agency day to day. You know what he said:
Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, New START Treaty [this treaty we are voting on] actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program.
We have our own leader of the Missile Defense Agency telling us that this is an advantage for the United States of America.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has used 4 minutes.
Mr. KERRY. I thank the Chair. Let me get to the heart of the argument about why this is so critical. The other side is trying to minimize this, saying you can't say that language has no legal binding authority, it is not that important, and turn around and say we can't change it. That is the nub of their argument--that we have to be able to change it because, if we don't change it, somehow nonbinding language is enough for us to say let's have no verification at all. It is a strange tradeoff.
Here is why it matters. Because the preamble is in the instrument that is transmitted to the Senate. Even though it is not the binding component of it, the rules by which we all play are that if you change a comma, or one word, that change has to go back to the Government of Russia, and they have to decide what they want to do. Why is that important relative to this language? Because the public position that they fought for in this negotiation was to achieve binding restraints on U.S. missile defense. That is what they wanted. And as Secretary Gates said--every general and admiral who has looked at this, including Admiral Mullen and General Chilton, have all said they didn't get that. They didn't win that point. We won that point. In any negotiation, when somebody needs something to be able to feel good, or deal with their own politics, sometimes you let them have a little something that is meaningless to you but may mean something to them. That is what we gave them. Take it away and you open this whole treaty. Then they have to figure out how they deal, in other terms, with those politics. I will wait until the classified session that we are going to have on Monday. I can't go into it here, but I will lay out why this treaty is good for the United States and why we believe reopening it would be dangerous. That is why this amendment is dangerous, because it will reopen this and will force--it doesn't constrain us in the least, and the extent to which that is true, I think, will be understood by a lot of colleagues in that session.
To make this even more clear, the President of the United States has written a letter today to Majority Leader Harry Reid and to Minority Leader McConnell. In the letter, which Senator Reid has shared with me, it says from the President:
The New START Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs. As the NATO Summit meeting in Lisbon last month underscored, we are proceeding apace with a missile defense system in Europe designed to provide full coverage for NATO members on the continent, as well as deployed U.S. forces, against the growing threat posed by proliferation of ballistic missiles. The final phase of the system will also augment our current defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles from Iran targeted against the United States.
All NATO allies agreed in Lisbon that the growing threat of missile proliferation, and our Article 5 commitment of collective defense, requires that the Alliance develop a territorial missile defense capability.
It goes on to talk about that capability. Then he says this, which is critical with respect to this debate. This is the President's letter to the leadership:
In signing the New START Treaty, the Russian Federation issued a statement that expressed its view that the extraordinary events referred to in Article XIV of the Treaty include a ``build-up in the missile defense capabilities of the United States of America such that it would give rise to a threat to the strategic nuclear potential of the Russian Federation.'' Article XIV(3), as you know, gives each Party the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it believes its supreme interests are jeopardized.
The United States did not and does not agree with the Russian statement. We believe that the continued development or deployment of U.S. missile defense systems, including qualitative and quantitative improvements to such systems, do not and will not threaten the strategic balance with the Russian Federation, and have provided policy and technical explanations to Russia on why we believe that to be the case. Although the United States cannot circumscribe Russia's sovereign rights under article XIV, paragraph 3, we believe the continued improvement and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems do not constitute a basis for questioning the effectiveness and viability of the New START treaty and, therefore, would not give rise to circumstances justifying Russia's withdrawal from the treaty.
Regardless of Russia's actions in this regard, as long as I am President and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners. My administration plans to deploy all four phases of the EPAA. While advances of technology or future changes in the threat could modify the details or timing of the later phases of the EPAA--one reason this approach is called adaptive--I will take every action available to me to support the deployment of all four phases.
Sincerely, Barack Obama, President of the United States.
I think this letter speaks for itself. I think the facts are history. I think the testimony of Secretary Gates and all those others who have come before us that makes it clear the United States has no constraints on missile defense whatsoever, makes clear this amendment is not necessary, and this amendment carries with it dangerous implications for the ultimate ratification implication of the treaty.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
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