Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. I thank the Chair. I didn't think I was actually yielding the floor. I thought I was yielding for a question, but I am happy to have my colleague make his comments, and I appreciate them.

Let me begin by saying I personally appreciate all of the efforts and good faith and engagement of the Senator from Tennessee, the Senator from Georgia on the committee, Senator Lugar, and others. This has been bipartisan as a result, and that is the way it ought to be. We had a very significant vote, 14 to 4, coming out of our committee that brought this treaty to the floor. I am proud of that on behalf of the committee, and I think that is the way we ought to deal with it here.

Now, I don't want to get these other issues clouded up in this debate. That is not what I am trying to do, and I am not going to spend much time on it at all except to say this: We don't control what the House of Representatives decides to do. The majority leader does not. They decided to do something and they passed a bill and they sent it over here. That also has bipartisan support. The Senator knows my own feelings about how things should have been sequenced. We are where we are. If we are going to live up to the words of the Senator from Tennessee about keeping this treaty where it ought to be, which is in the square focus of our national security and our interests abroad, et cetera, my hope is that everybody will simply rise above whatever--however they want to view these votes. What is political in one person's eye may be a passionate, deeply felt issue of conscience in somebody else's eye.

I don't want to get this issue confused in that debate. I just don't want that. I think it is important for us to keep our eyes on the ball. This is about our national security, the entire national security community. Generals, admirals, our national strategic commanders, our military leaders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff through the command have all said: Pass this START treaty; we want it now. The issue is not why now, it is why would we delay? Why would we not do it now? So I hope we will get it done.

I think the chairman of the Intelligence Committee has some powerful reasons for why now, and she has come to the floor by a prearranged agreement to speak at 2 o'clock. So I would like to yield the floor to her for that purpose, if I may.


Mr. KERRY. Would the Senator from Massachusetts give me 1 minute? I wish to say something to the Senator from Idaho.

First of all, I appreciate the constructive way in which he has outlined his approach to these questions. I think he has made a number of important statements about the good side of what is in this treaty. I appreciate he would like to see how we can work through this amendment process.

Let me say to him and other colleagues who are in the same place, actually listening to him I think I gained a greater appreciation for the point he is trying to make with respect to how missile defense has been framed in this discussion. I think he is appropriately trying to step away from only seeing it in the context of the former Soviet Union, U.S., Warsaw Pact, NATO, Russia, and the United States now, and how that offense-defense posture is addressed. Because he is thinking, I believe, if I understand him correctly, about the multiple points of concern from which--obviously, you have to sort of think differently about the deployment.

I would say to him that is precisely, I think, how the administration is thinking about deployment. But it suggested to me that maybe there is a way for us to find common language that, in a declaration or an understanding, might embrace that more to the liking of the Senator, without doing injury to the treaty as a whole so we kill the treaty because we have to go back to the Russians and renegotiate it, which becomes the critical thing. I would like to work with him and some colleagues on that and see if we can come to agreement on it. I think that is an important component.

I would also mention that the Senator has given access to a classified summary of the negotiating record with respect to missile defense and that was something we worked very hard to get the administration to do and I hope, indeed, that was helpful.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, if we can, I think we have had about six or seven missiles launched our way. Now I am going to show you what one good defense can do to alter the balance of power; and that is what this is all about: reality.

We have just heard the Senator from Arizona--first of all, I am so happy we are engaged in the debate. I thank my colleagues for the seriousness of the debate. And this is where we get to the heart of this, and I look forward to it.

The Senator from Arizona just engaged in a couple questions--the senior Senator--the junior Senator. I have to get this straight. The junior Senator. I have it straight. The other guy is senior in every way. What can I say.

In that colloquy, they suggested there is some kind of confusion and that we are proceeding down a road where somehow we are going to come into some kind of a confrontation over this issue.

Let me begin by saying, it does not take missile defense or any misunderstanding over it--there is not one; I will come to that next--but it does not take that or any other misinterpretation of the treaty for the Russians to decide to get out of the treaty or for the United States to decide to get out of the treaty.

Senator Risch from Idaho stood here a few minutes ago talking about all the benefits of modernization that are in this treaty, talking about all the good items about knowing what they are doing.

The choice here is between having that modernization locked in the way we have it in the context of the treaty and locked in with a treaty where we have verification or not having it. That is what we are talking about.

The fact is, there is no confusion. First of all, the Congress has passed a law. It is the law of the land, the Defense Act of 1999:

It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective national missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized or deliberate) with funding subject to the annual authorization of appropriations in the annual appropriation of funds for national missile defense.

Unequivocal. No ifs, ands, or buts. The law of the land, which we voted for, is to have a missile defense system; and that is the policy of the United States.

What the Senators have been arguing about is a paragraph that has no legal binding--none whatsoever--no legal binding, standing, whatsoever. It is not part of the four corners of the treaty. It is not part of the treaty. It is a statement. There is no confusion about what that statement means.

Let me read the U.S. unilateral statement, our statement, of April 7, 2010:

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--

That is, incidentally, language completely in keeping with the National Missile Defense Act of 1999; the same language--

to defend the United States against limited missile launches and to defend its deployed forces, allies--


and partners against regional threats.

Some colleagues have come to the floor and questioned whether we are going to be there for our allies. Here is the statement that makes it clear we will be there for our allies.

I read further:

The United States intends to continue improving and deploying its missile defense systems--

Hear that. Please, hear that. That is our signing statement: We intend to continue improving and deploying our missile defense systems--

in order to defend ourselves against limited attack as part of our collaborative approach to strenghthening stability in key regions.

Did the Russians understand what we said? Let me read what the Russians said, if I can find it. As early as April 6, 2010, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said:

The present treaty does not deal with missile defense systems but with a reduction of strategic arms.

On August 2, 2010, Foreign Minister Lavrov made this especially clear in an article in a Russian publication. He said:

Dedicated from the outset to the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, the new agreement does not impose restriction on the development of missile defense systems.

A month earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said at a press conference:

Russia did not seek to limit the development of U.S. missile defenses while drawing up a strategic arms cut treaty. We have never set a task to limit the development of the U.S. ABM system--

including the global one by means of the treaty.

There are no such limitations in this treaty.

So the Russians understand what this treaty means. And so do we.

What is the language that the Senator seeks to strike, and why is it problematic, and why will I oppose it?

I oppose it because since it is not within the four corners of the treaty--but, nevertheless, the preamble to the treaty--it requires us to go back to the Russians and renegotiate. That is a treaty killer. Make no mistake, this becomes a treaty killer.

Can we deal with this issue without a treaty killer amendment? The answer is, yes, Senators, we can deal with it. Oh, incidentally, we have dealt with it. We have already dealt with it. It is in the resolution of ratification.

I want to read very clearly to our colleagues the resolution of ratification--which, incidentally, I say to my colleagues, it is an understanding, which means it has to be communicated to the Russians. This is communicated to the Russians. And here is what it says, regarding missile defense: It is the understanding of the United States that, A, the New START treaty does not impose any limitations on the deployment of missile defenses other than the requirement of paragraph 3 of article V, which is the one that refers to the silos. We talked about that yesterday. We talked about the silos yesterday, and I will come back to it in a minute. The most relevant language is in B.

Incidentally, the silos are all that our understanding refers to as contained within the treaty. In paragraph B, it says, any additional New START treaty limitations on the deployment of missile defenses beyond those contained in paragraph 3--that is the silos, the conversion of silos--would require an amendment to the New START treaty, which may enter into force for the United States only with the advice and consent of the Senate.

So, in other words, if there were to be any other restraint on missile defense, we are making it clear--and this is communicated to the Russians--that it would require the Senate's advice and consent. It has to come back to us. We control what happens.

So the only component of this that has any legal force of law is the silos.

I would say to my colleagues, are the people who came here last night saying we are spending too much money advocating that we build and allow a silo conversion that costs $55 million compared to the silos that the military wants to build that cost $36 million and are brandnew and more effective and more efficient and not confused with the old ICBM silos? What makes more sense?

That is not a limitation on missile defense because we have the right to go out and build any number of fields of silos wherever we think they most effectively work. We can go build those new silos for $20 some million less than the ones they want to preserve the right to conceivably convert and confuse the world about what is in them.

It is pretty clear there is no limitation on defense because we can do what we want with our bombers. We can do what we want with our submarines. And we can do what we want in terms of our interceptor missiles, fired from fields somewhere that we decide to put them. That is not a limitation on defense under any definition whatsoever.

I might add, for those who quoted a couple of comments by a couple of Russians, they are giving greater credibility to those Russians than they are to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the President, the Vice President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and our strategic command and the head of our Missile Defense Agency, all of whom have said: We are going to go ahead with our plans. We are going to do what we want.

So when you look at the language we already have in the resolution of ratification, which will be communicated to the Russians, there is no limitation on our defense for anything we intend to do, want to do, or makes sense for the United States of America.

That said, let's talk about the language and what it does mean that the Senator's amendment seeks to strike. It says the following:

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 strategic defensive arms--

i.e., referring to our plans, and what we have, and what we are doing--

do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.

That is all it says. What is that? I tell you what it is. It is a statement of fact. It is a statement of the truth. It is a statement of a truth that was recognized by President George Bush, by Condi Rice, by Jim Baker, and by all of their predecessors, all the way back to Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and others.

What is the statement of fact? Well, here is the statement of fact: Is there a relationship between one person's level of offensive weapons and someone's defensive weapons? I was here with the Senator from Arizona, the senior Senator from Arizona, and we had a long debate in the 1980s over this subject, and he was right. It created a lot of turmoil back and forth over the so-called SDI program, the Strategic Defense Initiative that President Reagan initially proposed. He and I--and Senator Kyl may have been here then--were a part of that debate with President Reagan in that period of time. What we learned during that period of time is the reality of this relationship between offense and defense.

I want to take a minute to sort of go through it a little bit because I think it is important to understanding how innocuous these words are and what they sort of recognize in this process.

The policy of our country is now to set out to create a limited defense. I read that. The Strategic Defense Initiative was a much broader, much bigger kind of concept. In fact, in the beginning of that debate, it even contemplated putting weapons up in space and having the ability to shoot down from space, and a whole bunch of other things. We went through a long and tortured debate about all that, which finally sort of exposed this following reality.

Here is the reality: For years, we would each respond to each other as we both built up the numbers of nuclear weapons.

We both contemplated first strike capacity and survivability, second strike capacity, and how the numbers of weapons we had affected the judgment of each side about their security. If one side had a whole bunch of great big missiles with big warheads, as the Russians did--the big SS18A and so forth; they had bigger ones than we did, actually--and that motivated us to think about a whole bunch of other ways to defend against it because we wanted them to know if they did try to do a first strike that they couldn't take us out and we had the ability to come back and annihilate them. That was the theory of mutual destruction that kept everybody building weapons until we had more than 10,000 strategic weapons each and tens of thousands more of depth charges, mines, cruise missiles, and various other platforms for tactical nuclear weapons by which we could deliver a nuclear warhead.

Ronald Reagan, to his credit, and Mikhail Gorbachev came to the conclusion at Reykjavik that this was madness; that nobody could afford to spend endless amounts of money just building up these huge offensive weapons so they could overwhelm the other side, or at least have a sufficient level of threat that the other side was scared to do anything.

I listened earlier to, I think it was Senator Kyl and others, talking about how we have prevented some wars. I am convinced, frankly, that we probably didn't invade North Vietnam largely because Russia and China were the surrogates behind the war, both with massive nuclear power, so we never quite went that distance because we always knew there was that counterthreat in the background.

Now that certainly was the threat that existed in those 13 days of October when President Kennedy and Kruszchev squared off over Cuba and we came perilously close to a nuclear war.

So what happened is, when President Reagan put out on the table the idea we were going to go ahead and build a defense, all of a sudden the Russians, who, frankly, couldn't afford it then and can't afford it now, they looked at that defense said: Whoops, what does this do to our calculation about first strike, survivability, second strike, and the nuclear deterrents we have?

If all of a sudden the other side has the ability to shoot down all the weapons or a sufficient number of weapons of the other side in little calculated first strike, second strike, survivability capacity, we have annihilated the theory of deterrence.

If one side gets a qualitative huge advantage and just deploys it--go ahead and deploy it, put it out there. Like these desks here, the front row of desks are our offensive weapons, and the back three rows are all of a sudden a massive defensive system, and all they have is the front row of desks. Boy, are they going to think differently. Suddenly they say: We either develop that system so we can take it out or we develop a big enough offensive system so we can overwhelm all of it. Right back to the arms race we have struggled to get away from.

That is why the idea that we are going to try to take out of here a nonbinding, nonlegal, completely sort of throw-away statement--there is a truism, as Henry Kissinger called it. I know Senator McCain respects Henry Kissinger. I know he talked to him for advice in the course of the Presidential race. He is still one of our wise men of foreign policy and of State craft. He testified to our committee: That statement, you ought to just ignore it, forget about it. It has nothing to do with this treaty, and all it does is state a truism, a fact, a reality.

There is a relationship between offense and defense, and if we can't be--I don't know--capable enough and understand the nuance of this thing well enough to be able to admit the truth about something, given all of the other evidence that is on the table about where we are heading, we would make an enormous mistake to kill the treaty over a nonbinding, near irrelevant piece of text.

Let me just say further I have already pointed out in the resolution of ratification we have obviated the need to have this agreement. We have completely put in there language which I think clarifies. I am happy to work with my colleague further to see if there is some other way to even state more clearly in a declaration or in a condition--we could state it in some way perhaps more clearly, if that satisfies him. But I don't think, given the lack of legal standing, that we are going to kill the treaty over the notion of this.

A couple more things I wish to say about it: Does this assert this link for the first time or reassert a link that has been separated? I have stated the obvious link between offense and defense.

Let me say one other thing. President Reagan, incidentally, had a fascinating idea which a lot of people laughed at initially when he put it out there. He said: Let's share it with the Russians. Now, why would you share it with the Russians? That is President Reagan talking. Because if they know what we are doing, if they know that it is not a guise to get an advantage over them, to somehow be able to surprise them or overwhelm them, but they understand exactly what you are doing, which is precisely what we have done in the course of this European deployment--they know it, they understand it, they see what it is directed at. It is focused on Iran. It is focused on rogue missiles. It is focused on the threat we ought to be focused on. They understand that. Therefore, they don't see it as a reason not to enter into this kind of an agreement.

But if we just unilaterally quietly go off on our own and develop something they think can alter the strategic balance, then their leaders are subject to the same political pressures we are of people who say: Hey, you are not protecting our Nation. You are not thinking about us. The evil United States of America might be trying to blanket us, et cetera.

We both have folks in our political bodies who hate treaties or don't want to deal with us; or they don't want to deal with us and we don't want to deal with them. We understand that. But every President, Republican and Democrat alike, has found that strategically it made sense for the United States of America to, in fact, reach these agreements and to negotiate these agreements. The world has been made safer because of it, and nobody has greater testimony to that than Senator Lugar, who is passionately for this treaty because, as Jim Baker said, it was START I that created the foundation for the Nunn-Lugar threat reduction program to be able to work and reduce the threat to our country.

I repeat, when Donald Rumsfeld was preparing to negotiate the Moscow Treaty, here is what he said:

We agreed that it is perfectly appropriate to discuss offensive and defensive capabilities together.

As those negotiations began, President Bush said:

We will shortly begin intensive consultations on the interrelated subjects of offensive and defensive systems.

He said the two go hand in hand. What is more, seven former heads of the Strategic Command wrote the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this summer saying:

The relationship between offense and defense is a simple and long accepted reality.

So the Obama administration isn't creating some link. It is acknowledging the reality, and it is acknowledging it--I might add in a paragraph that has no legal standing with respect to the treaty itself, but it is, for whatever benefits or negatives, a sufficient part of that document that it requires under the law to go back to the Russians and do it. But as Secretary Clinton said, it has no legal obligation--obligation--on the United States. It is a statement of fact. So Henry Kissinger said don't worry about the language, and I accept what he is saying.

Finally, the preamble also states the current systems we are planning on don't undermine the viability and effectiveness of either party's strategic arms. It also does not say that the future system we can develop, and we are developing--and the President laid out a clarity about stage 3 and stage 4 deployment with respect to Europe. We can come back to that later if people want to, but the Russians were briefed on why the treaty has no restraint whatsoever in our phased adaptive approach in Europe, specifically including phase 4.

LTG Patrick O'Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, told the committee--and, once again, folks can choose to believe LTG Patrick O'Reilly or you can believe a newspaper article in Russia and some Russian official. What matters to us is what we decide to do because we can pull out of this treaty any day we want to.

If we have a qualitative change in our system, and we think it is going to defend the United States of America, you don't think any President in the future isn't going to be the first to say, I am deploying that because it protects the country. You don't think that Senators here aren't going to be the first to stand up and say: Mr. President, you have to deploy it because it protects the country. What is more, we can't reduce below the 1,350 warhead level, folks, without the Senate agreeing to do it.

So we are not on some cascading downward trend. We are in a position where our defense and intelligence community says we need this treaty because we want to get back to the ground. We want to know what Russia is doing, and we would like to catch up to what they are up to.

LTG Patrick O'Reilly said:

I believe the Russians understand what the plan is and that those plans for development are not limited by this treaty.

That is a quote.

He also explained what he told them about it, and I quote again:

Throughout these conversations, it was very clear to me through their questions and responses that they fully understood my presentation; i.e., fourth stage and our commitment to proceed forward.

Now, there is nothing in this treaty that changes our course on missile defense. Bob Gates reminded us of that. And, once again, do you believe Bob Gates or do you want to believe the Russian press? Is it relevant anyway? Because if Bob Gates says we are going to do it and the President says we are going to do it and the Congress says we are going to do it, and we are doing it, it doesn't matter what they say because if they are going to pull out, they will pull out. Until then, we have the advantage of the inspections and the cooperation that comes with this treaty.

Here is what Bob Gates said:

The Russians have always tried to resist our ability to do missile defense, but this treaty doesn't accomplish that for them.

He said:

We have a comprehensive missile defense program and we are going forward with all of it.

So the administration has made clear to the Russians that we are going ahead with missile defense. We don't need this amendment. It doesn't change Russia's withdrawal rights. It doesn't change what we have already made clear, notwithstanding it does have that minor impact of killing the treaty. So I will oppose it. Much as the Duma's action on START II killed that treaty, it never came into force because of our pulling out of the ABM Treaty. I don't think this amendment will advantage the position of our country.

I know Senator Lugar wishes to speak, but others are on the Senate floor already.

I yield the floor.


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 says:

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. KERRY. I know another Senator is about to be recognized and I will not take very long.

Let me just say I understand the frustration of colleagues. I truly do. I think my colleagues know the good-faith efforts the President, the Vice President, myself, and others have made to try to move the schedule here. The fact is, we began debate on this treaty on Wednesday afternoon--Wednesday morning, but we were delayed slightly--Wednesday afternoon after Senator Lincoln's farewell. We had opening speeches. Everybody argued it was important to have opening speeches and not necessarily have an amendment right away; we need to have openings. So we had openings. Then we had the second day of debate. Today, Friday, we have had the third day of debate.

So tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we have the opportunity to have the fourth day, fifth day, sixth day, which is what colleagues said we needed to try to accomplish this--maybe 6 days--and I believe we can do it in that period of time.

I have been here for 25 years. I have been here when we have had a Republican President and a Republican majority leader. I have been here when we have had a Democratic President and a Republican majority leader and a Republican House and every variation. Inevitably, we have had some tough choices to face which don't please everybody. There are times when we are forced to try to deal with the business of our country. I respect completely--I have worked so closely with the Senator from Arizona for so many years. I know the feelings are what they are. But this treaty is, in our judgment and in the President's judgment, important to our national security. We have 150,000 troops out there across the world--Iraq, Afghanistan. They are pretty uncomfortable tonight, but they are doing their job. I believe we need to do our job here and not necessarily spend so much time worrying about schedule, which often we don't control, for one reason or another.

I know the Senator is upset about something that came over from the House. We don't control the House. The House made a decision to pass something and send that to us, and the majority leader, for all the obvious reasons, feels compelled it is something he ought to deal with.

So let's do this business. Let's not complain. I think the important thing here is to keep working. It is Friday night. I will stay as late as anybody wants to bring an amendment. Tomorrow we have some votes. We may or may not have intervening business. I don't know what the outcome of those votes will be. But we have the ability to continue on this treaty, and we certainly have the ability to finish it well before Christmas. The majority leader has made it clear to me. There are only four items or five items that have to be dealt with. The spending, and now that is going to be short-term spending until we resolve the differences. So we have spending. The second item is the two votes tomorrow, that is three items, and perhaps one other vote on the New York thing--I don't know what the situation is on that--and the START treaty. So on two of those items, I think most people understand we are not sure what the outcome is going to be. One we may be on for 1 day. It is hard to say. But other than that, this is the only business.


Mr. KERRY. I would say this to my colleagues. I probably don't have the power or the ability to reach over some of these feelings. I would hope--and this is a prayer as well as a plea on a personal level--that sometimes things happen that are out of some people's control here. I believe we can get through these votes tomorrow and still have time to do something that I know these colleagues of mine--I have had private conversations with them. I know what they think about this treaty behind all of this that is going on. I know they understand the importance of our position in the world, of our capacity to not make foreign policy and national security subject to all these other forces. It is a reach. It is going to require--I understand. I am just asking as one person, one Senator, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

We have put a lot of energy into this effort over the last year and a half. This matters I think to our country. I am not saying that as a Democrat, and I don't think you would say it as a Republican. I think this matters to our country. I think Russia is watching what we are going to do. I think the world is watching what we are going to do. This is about nuclear weapons. It is about stability. We have enormous challenges with Iran and North Korea. Believe me, from all the conversations I have as chairman of this committee with a lot of different leaders, they look to us for what we do and whether we make good on the things we say that matter to us.

I believe this is one of those things they will say: Wow, these guys can't even get their collective acts together to do something as important as a bilateral relationship between the two countries that have 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. My prayer is that we can do that in these next 2 days, and I hope we can make that happen.

Mr. KYL. If the Senator will yield briefly, I ask to speak for just 60 seconds. I want to make it clear that I don't think anybody on this side holds Senator Kerry accountable for the fact that this is a confusing and back-and-forth kind of debate between the START treaty and other issues on the floor.

Also, I started to say about 3 weeks ago that, knowing that other people would try to bring issues to the floor, and knowing that we had a lot of other business we had to conclude, I could see this situation developing where despite the best efforts of Senator Kerry and others, it would be very difficult to have the kind of debate we needed on the START treaty.

Unfortunately, my prediction has come true. It has been very difficult because of the intercession of all of these other issues. But Senator Kerry bears no responsibility. The decision to move forward is a joint decision by all of the people on the Democratic side. That, I think, was the critical decision that got us into this problem.

Mr. KERRY. My final comments: I hope the Senate will find the capacity in these next 4, 5, 6, or whatever number of days it is--and the majority leader said he is prepared to allow us to stay here as long as we want to get this business done. The President and the majority leader together have made it clear this is important business that must get done in order for us to complete our business this year. That said, I thank the Senator from Connecticut for his patience.


Mr. KERRY. I appreciate the answer of the Senator. Let me be clear. There is no language in here, none whatsoever in the treaty, that suggests any measurement or judgment as to the weight or rationale or propriety of their notice. It simply says they shall give notice, and having given notice, automatically, the treaty is over in 3 months. There is no measure. There is no court you go to. There is no measure here. You are out. The point I am making is, no matter what, you can get out.

That said, there is a difference here of opinion. The Senator from Arizona chooses to take these outside statements, which are sending us a signal that obviously they are not going to take lightly to some massive, layered defense that they think affects their offensive capacity. I think the Senator understands that. I am convinced the Senator knows that. He is too smart about this stuff, and he knows too much about it not to understand that if the Russians think all of a sudden we have done something that alters that balance, I believe he thinks they are going to react to that somehow. He has nodded in assent. He does believe that.

So all this nonbinding component says is recognizing the existence of the relationship, it doesn't say they are going to get out. It doesn't say at what point it changes things.

What is more, the record could not be more clear from our unbelievably competent personnel working on this--when you look at the comments of--let me go back to them right now.

I know the Senator from Arizona has respect for LTG Patrick O'Reilly. He is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general, and it is his job to defend America against a missile attack. Here is what he said. He says:

Relative to the recently expired START treaty, the New START treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program. Under New START, our targets will no longer be subject to START constraints.

So--and when Senators ask: Well, why didn't we just extend the original START treaty, apart from the fact the other side said they wouldn't, which is pretty significant, in addition to that, our military didn't want to because they wanted to get out from under the constraints of START. So when the man who is the head of missile defense tells me this treaty, in fact, removes constraints and improves our situation, then you add it to the plethora of other significant statements, from Secretary Bob Gates, from Secretary Clinton, from Admiral Mullen, from General Chilton, from the various other parties, every single one of them says we are not constrained in the type of defense that we can and will build.

All this says is recognizing the relationship. It doesn't restrict us from changing that. In fact, we have stated we are going to. So, obviously, at some point down the road, I assume the Russians are going to say this may be going too far. But it is more than 10 years down the road. So for 10 years we know we have a relationship where we can inspect and we can improve our situation.

I would further say to the Senator: Does the Senator agree at least with the fundamental understanding with respect to treaties that the preamble is not, in fact, legally binding and part of the treaty? Does the Senator agree with that?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, in a technical legal sense, I believe that is the way it is interpreted. I might also make another point, just to correct something--and we can have this debate later if you want to--but it is not true that no changes qualitatively or quantitatively in U.S. missile defenses will occur until after the 10 years that this treaty will be enforced. In fact, one of the most critical questions is whether the GBI systems we have deployed in Alaska and California will be available to be deployed in Europe or on the East Coast or somewhere else in 2015 or whether that will be delayed until 2017. So, clearly, there are--and those are the systems that would be potentially effective against a Russian ICBM.

Mr. KERRY. Fair enough. I accept that. There are some things we will do, and it may be that we had this moment of question mark earlier. That may be. I do know this: We are going to plan to do what is in our interests in the country in terms of our defense, and everybody has said we are committed to proceeding forward.

I want to come to the DeMint language in one moment, but let me finish this question for a second. The Senator agrees this is not a legally binding component he is trying to knock out. The next question is: Does the Senator agree and understand that if you change a comma in what is deemed to be--even though it is not binding, still nevertheless deemed to be the instrument before the Senate--if you change a word, change a comma, you then have to go back to the Russians and you have to negotiate and seek their agreement; does the Senator understand that?

Mr. KYL. Madam President, the answer to the question is, if the Senate, which is supposed to provide its advice and consent--in other words, it is the other half of the equation to the Presidency, and if we are not to be a rubberstamp, and presumably we can take seriously our responsibility to make changes in the treaty or the preamble--if that is our judgment and if we do that, if we eliminate these words in the McCain-Barrasso amendment from the preamble, then the Russians would have to decide either to accept that change or they would negotiate something with the administration that would then be resubmitted, that is correct, and/or there also could be a side agreement that would be entered into.

Mr. KERRY. I agree. But the bottom line is, the Senator has agreed with my statement that we have to go back to the Russians, and that means this treaty doesn't go into force. It also means you don't know what other parts of the negotiation come forward.

So the choice before the Senate is whether you want to take language, which the Senator has agreed is not legally binding, and you want to go back to the Russians and reopen the negotiations for something that doesn't even bind you, when you already have this remarkable amount of evidence saying we are going to go ahead and do what the Senator is interested in doing.

Even further----

Mr. KYL. Would my colleague yield just for one quick question?

Mr. KERRY. I am happy to yield.

Mr. KYL. You said, then, the treaty would have to go back to the Russians. Of course, the Russian Duma is poised to act on this treaty after the Senate does so. The treaty is going to go to the Russians, and unless my colleague is suggesting the Senate has no right to change anything in it, of course, if it is modified, it goes to the Duma and then the Duma decides do they want to accept that change or not.

Mr. KERRY. Madam President, that is a good point by the Senator, and I don't disagree. He is absolutely correct. The Duma does have to ratify this.

But the point I am trying to make is, it doesn't seem worth trying to have that fight--I mean, if this were a matter that went to the core and essence of where we are heading with the treaty, I would say that is different. But it is not binding. If there was something binding here that required us to do something against our will, sure. But

there is no rubberstamp involved in something that has no affect on the actions we have already guaranteed in so many different ways we are going to take. Let me just point out--

Mr. KYL. Would you yield for one quick question?

Mr. KERRY. Sure.

Mr. KYL. If it is not binding, then why does my colleague assume the Duma would have such a hard time accepting the modest change we are proposing?

Mr. KERRY. It is simply a matter of before you get to the Duma, you have to go back and renegotiate this, the treaty doesn't enter into force, and we don't begin what our intelligence community has told us they would like to see happen sooner; the quicker, the better. They want to get to this process.

Moreover, it is also important in another respect. I don't know how much more clear we can be, but I am willing to work with the Senator, and I would love to see if we could sit down in the next hours and come up with something here. We work pretty effectively together, and I think we may be able to do this.

But I don't think these words that are in here are meaningless. In the resolution of ratification, we are saying:

A paramount obligation of the United States Government is to provide for the defense of the American people, deployed members of the United States 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.

That is a pretty--that is even a new--I was attracted to that, frankly, because Senator DeMint proposed it, and I said: You know, that is not an unreasonable statement for us to make.

Further, we say in the resolution--this is not unimportant:

In a world where biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them are proliferating--

This is what our colleagues have been concerned about--

strategic stability can be enhanced by strategic defensive measures.

We are embracing what our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are suggesting ought to be a part of this.

Then, we say--this is the most important paragraph:

Accordingly, the United States is and will remain free to reduce the vulnerability to attack by constructing a layered missile defense system capable of countering missiles of all ranges.

We are saying it. That is what we are adopting when we pass this resolution of ratification.

So not only do we have all our defense establishment, intelligence establishment, and civilian command saying we are going to build this system, not only have we briefed the Russians--and according to our leading general who is responsible for this, who says he briefed them, he told them about the fourth phase and they have accepted it--not only do we have that, but we are going on record saying we have this purpose to change this relationship and we are going to proceed to build this system.

I think that to put the whole treaty, given what is in the resolution of ratification, on the chopping block as a result of a nonbinding resolution, frankly, it just doesn't make sense, and particularly given what the Senator agrees with me is the consequence of having to reenter negotiations, and more important, the Senator agrees with me the thing he doesn't like is not legally binding.

So let's have a vote. Thank you.


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, let me say to the Senator that, for better or worse, the way it works--and I think the Senator acknowledged this in his answer to my question--you do have to go back to the Russians and you have to have a negotiation and there has to be an agreement. If it was changed further, we would have to come back and go through the entire process again, in order to review or do a new treaty because it would be a different treaty submitted to us.

Let me say, through the Chair, to my friend, that said, I want to clarify it is not the weight of the words that makes this complicated--and it is not. I am not trying to have it both ways and say the words are irrelevant, but therefore he is saying why don't you change them. But it is the process. It is what happens as a consequence, in terms of when we ratify a treaty, if we ever ratify a treaty. And because they are not binding and, therefore, don't affect what we are obligated to do, and every bit of our obligations have been defined by the generals, admirals, various agency heads, et cetera, that has all been defined.

We have a clarity about where we are going. Here is what is important, and I say this to the Senator from Alabama and the other Senators on the floor, this is part of our advice and consent because we have made it clear--we have done something different. We have gone beyond what they did. We are adding our stamp to this in the resolution of ratification, where we have accepted the DeMint language, which is as forward-leaning as you could be in sending the Russians and the world a notice, regardless of what the administration may or may not have said. We have said it and we control the purse strings and we make that policy about what we are prepared to spend for and develop, and that is a robust missile defense system.

That said, let me come back to one other point the Senator raised about the meaning of what happened in the Polish--with the Poles and the switch and phased adaptive system. The fact is--and this is very important--the Obama administration did not come up with this idea for this change. This was not motivated by some different world view of the President or the Obama administration. This is our military.

As the chairman of the Armed Services Committee laid out fairly clearly and in detailed fashion, the military came to us. They are the ones who came up and said this is a better way to do this system. In fact, I have a letter from Admiral Mullen. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Thank You!

You are about to be redirected to a secure checkout page.

Please note:

The total order amount will read $0.00 but know that a recurring donation of the amount and frequency that you selected will be processed and initiated tomorrow. You may see a charge of $0.00 on your statement.

Continue to secure page »

Back to top