Casey Delivers Remarks on START Treaty at the Center for American Progress

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, delivered remarks at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on “The New START: A Renewed Commitment to American Security.” Senator Casey was a featured speaker at CAP’s discussion on a New Nuclear Security Agenda.

“This New START is a renewal of America’s commitment to diminishing the threat posed by nuclear weapons and material,” said Senator Casey.  “I believe that this New START agreement marks a responsible beginning in America’s renewed commitment to the nonproliferation treaty, to securing all fissile material within four years and will ultimately help rally international support to confront nuclear terrorism.”  

While previous START treaties enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, Senator Casey warned of the dangers of not ratifying the treaty: “If the New START agreement were not to be ratified by the United States, I believe there would be serious consequences.  First, we would lose the transparency and predictability in our relationship with Russia that is so important in avoiding misunderstandings.  Second, and more importantly, rejection of this treaty would injure U.S. efforts to convince countries to take nonproliferation seriously.”  

To view video of Senator Casey’s speech, please visit: http://www.americanprogress.org/events/2010/04/NuclearSecurity.html

The full text of Senator Casey’s remarks is attached.

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The New START: A Renewed Commitment to American Security
Senator Bob Casey
Speech at the Center for American Progress
April 27, 2010

I would like to thank the Center for American Progress for hosting this event and in a particular way, John I want to thank you for your public service, which stretches back a couple of years, and your continued advocacy on behalf of policy positions of the commitments that you and the Center for American Progress family bring to these critically important issues of public policy. John has seen the challenges in pushing nuclear arms agreements through the Senate as well as from the perspective of the White House.  He knows these battles well and we are fortunate to have his counsel on these and many other issues.  

I’m also honored to be in the presence of so many experts and advocates in the audience and those who will follow me on this platform.  I probably will be out the door long before Undersecretary Tauscher is here, but I just saw her last night for a meeting, and Wednesday morning at the State Department for breakfast.  And before getting into the policy and the START agreement and what undergirds our policy in that area, I wanted to commend folks that I think we sometimes don’t commend enough.  The President of the United States for making his commitment on all these issues that we’re here to talk about today, but especially today, his courageous leadership on START.  Secretary of State Clinton and her work individually and as Secretary of State and the team she’s put in place, including Ellen. And finally the Vice President, Vice President Biden, who brings not only a passion and a commitment, but fortunately, as is true with the president and the Secretary of State, knowledge about and experience in the United States Senate, which is always very valuable in these complex times we live in.  I think you need to be there as long as Senator Biden was there, 36 years, and you just begin to understand how the place works.  That experience will be very valuable.

In 1961 at the United Nations, President Kennedy said and I quote that, "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness." President Obama recently noted that we are paradoxically at this time more vulnerable today to a nuclear terrorist attack than we were during the Cold War. Today's sword of Damocles still hangs by the slenderest of threads but we have the ability I believe , and I think we all believe, to prevent this threat by minimizing the access that terrorists would have to nuclear material.

This was the central theme of the President’s nuclear security summit earlier this month.   This was a historic event, and it helped to create a foundation upon which other countries will take up the challenge of nuclear security, and take it more seriously, and in turn cooperate with the United States to accomplish the President’s goal of securing fissile material in four years.

We cannot do this alone.  In order to confront this most serious threat to U.S. national security, we need to build bonds of trust with nations around the world.  And part of building that trust is rebuilding our own credibility on nonproliferation issues.  This new START agreement is a very positive step in that direction.  It helps us to fulfill our commitments under the nonproliferation treaty, a key marker for many potential allies on a range of nuclear security issues.

This New START agreement is a renewal, a renewal, of America’s commitment to diminishing the threat posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear material.  And this is what we’re here  to talk about today.

Almost two decades after the conclusion of the Cold War, the United States and Russia maintain more than 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of 23,000 nuclear weapons.  As we all know, each of these weapons has the capacity to destroy a city.  Each one.  A significant nuclear exchange, of course, would destroy all life on the planet.   The Cold War is over and while the relationship between the U.S. and the Russian Federation has been rocky in recent years, it’s not the Soviet Union of old.  We work with the Russian Federation on a host of challenging issues.  Despite this enhanced relationship, we still maintain huge nuclear stockpiles in both countries, which inherently increases the risk of catastrophic accidents, errors or unauthorized use of those weapons.  

The New START agreement signed on April the 8th, was an important historic achievement. And everyone in this room knows it requires that each country deploy no more than 1,550 strategic warheads and that each side is limited to 800 land, air and sea-based launchers.  This agreement brings deployed weapons to new lows.
It may not have been as ambitious as some would like, but all arms control proponents would agree that the New START agreement is an important kick start to a process after years of relative dormancy.

The key now becomes how we garner support across the country and in the United States Senate.

And in order to get there, we have to answer at least one fundamental question: How does this agreement make America safer?  

Well I think in two ways at least.  

First, the agreement provides for predictability, transparency and stability in the U.S. Russian nuclear relationship.  Former National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Ambassador Linton Brooks put it best when he said and I quote that “Transparency leads to predictability; predictability leads to stability.”  The opportunity to examine Russian nuclear forces will help limit the surprises, mistrust or miscalculation that could result from a lack of information.  Furthermore, this important bi-lateral relationship will require increased attention in the coming years as we look to Russia for deeper cooperation on issues as complex as Iran, the nuclear threat posed by Iran, as well as our conflict in Afghanistan.  By building trust with regards to our respective nuclear arsenals, progress on these important issues becomes more likely.

Second, the START agreement, the follow-on treaty itself, is a clear demonstration that the United States is upholding our disarmament obligations under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty , which can in turn help to secure support from other countries for a strong arms control regime and assistance on other non-proliferation issues.  In October, Secretary Clinton said, and I quote, “the nuclear status quo is neither desirable nor sustainable.  It gives other countries the motivation or the excuse to pursue their own nuclear options.”  The New START agreement is a necessary step in reaffirming U.S. leadership on the nonproliferation issues.  Without a clear commitment to our nonproliferation responsibilities through a new START agreement, it will be increasingly difficult for the United States to secure international support.  And as we go forward on that kind of cooperation, we have to make sure that we’re addressing all of the urgent security threats and issues that are posed by proliferation as well as those issues that are maybe not proliferation in nature but of course are grave security risks.

I don’t think that I’m alone in this assessment about the impact and the value and the meaning of the new START agreement.  In fact, I think it is instructive to listen to some of our friends who worked in Republican administrations.  George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, for example, have expressed their support for the treaty and even called for further reductions in Russian tactical nuclear capabilities.  In an all-too-rare instance of bipartisanship in this town, they have joined with Sam Nunn and Bill Perry to advocate on these issues, over many years, I should add.  We thank them for their service to our country and their continuing contribution to public policy and of course more than anything, we thank them for their leadership on these critically important issues.  

Now we’ve heard some criticism from some quarters of the New START treaty -- some of which has not been grounded in reality.  We should take this opportunity to walk through some of the charges and then do a little bit of rebuttal.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former Senator from New York once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”  And I think that admonition is applicable here as well.  Here are the facts, or at least some of the facts.

First, this treaty in no way limits missile defense.  General Kevin Chilton, Commander of STRATCOM, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on April 14th, and said, and I quote, “there is no restriction in START with regard to our missile defense capability.”

Now the Treaty does prohibit the conversion of ICBM and SLBM launchers to missile defense launchers.  Five former ICBM silos at Vandenberg Airbase were grandfathered in and were already converted for ground based interceptors.  

On April 15th Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency clearly explained that his Agency never had any plans to convert additional silos at Vandenberg.  It would actually be cheaper and more effective to build entirely new missile fields, instead of relying upon conversion.  He went on to explain that the same applied to conversion of submarine based launchers which would be a quote, and these are his words, “very unattractive and extremely expensive option.”    He also said, and I quote,  “Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints, reduces constraints, on the development of the missile defense program.”

Now as was done following the first START agreement, the Russians have issued a unilateral statement regarding missile defense.  I’m not surprised by that.  This document is not part of the treaty and therefore not subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.  The Administration has also issued a unilateral statement that said that nothing in the treaty would limit U.S. efforts to develop current or future missile defense systems.  

Second, this treaty does not limit Conventional Prompt Global Strike.  The Defense Department is currently exploring the technologies which would give the president the option to launch a missile anywhere in the world in a short period of time.  The treaty in no way prevents the United States from building and deploying conventionally armed ballistic missiles.  

Third, a reduction in nuclear arms does not leave, the United States more vulnerable.  In fact, the Administration has taken extraordinary steps to ensure that we strengthen the capabilities of our existing stockpile to ensure that our nuclear weapons infrastructure is second to none.  The President has repeatedly said, and I quote, that “As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal.”  Safe, secure, and effective.

And he has backed up this commitment with a substantial funding request that devotes $7 billion to maintaining our nuclear stockpile and modernizing our nuclear infrastructure.  This is a $624 million increase over what Congress approved last year and will ensure that we can cut deployed weapons without compromising our security.   I hope that those who have expressed concern with the safety, security and effectiveness of the arsenal will join us in an effort to ensure that the President’s budget for our arsenal is protected during the appropriations process.  We’ll see what happens there.  Stay tuned.

This commitment extends across the Administration.  In the recently released Nuclear Posture Review, Secretary Gates asked that nearly $5 billion be transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of Energy over the next several years.  This enhanced budget will help to ensure that the United States has a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain our nuclear infrastructure support and to support our nation’s deterrent.  The NPR reports that enhanced confidence in our existing stockpile in turn will allow us to “hedge against future threats without the need for a large non-deployed stockpile.”

If the New START agreement were not ratified by the United States of America, I believe there would be serious consequences.  

First, we would lose the transparency and predictability in our relationship with Russia that is so important to avoid misunderstandings.  

Second, and more importantly, rejection of this treaty would injure U.S. efforts to convince countries to take nonproliferation seriously.  This would negatively impact our ability to work with others to confront the threat of nuclear terrorism.  A perceived loosening of the NPT regime could lead to a cascade chain reaction of countries acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.  Today we are dealing with intransigent regimes in Iran and North Korea.  These intransigent regimes both are very serious threats to our security as well as to the world.  We wouldn’t want this threat to multiply with additional nations seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

I do not believe, however, that it will come to this.  We will achieve ratification of the New START agreement in the United States Senate.  Nuclear arms agreements with Moscow have historically drawn upon a deep well of bi-partisan support.  The first START treaty in 1992 won Senate approval 93-6.  The second START treaty in 1996 won 87-4.  And the Bush Administration’s SORT treaty secured the consent of 95 Senators.  None voted against.

There is no reason why this New START agreement should be different.  We may have our differences on elements of the treaty when it is presented to the Senate for ratification.  But I am confident that we will be able to come together in common cause, Democrat, Republican, and Independent, to recognize that these agreements are in our national security interest.  There will be deliberation.  There will be debate.  And that’s as it should be. But I am confident that at the end of the day, that at the end of this process, this agreement -- in the proud tradition of the Senate -- will garner bi-partisan support.  And I think in the end, substantial bipartisan support.

I believe that our future, and especially our national security future is inextricably intertwined with our work on nonproliferation and preventing nuclear terrorism.  Every Senator, no matter what party you’re in, no matter what your obligations are otherwise, every Senator has a fundamental obligation and responsibility to protect the American people.  We must maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal.  There’s no question about that.  The greatest threat we face right now is from nuclear terrorism, likely to come from a non-state actor.

The only way, the only way, to truly counter nuclear terror is to convince other countries that they have a role to play in locking down fissile material and being ever vigilant in the face of terrorist activity.  The New START agreement helps get us there.  The New START agreement helps us to rebuild trust with the international community and to keep our promise, our covenant that we made in ratifying the NPT.  If we are seen as doing our part, if we are seen as responsible stewards of the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, more nations around the world will join us in this enduring mission.

In closing, I want to say that I am inspired by the advent of a new nuclear spring.  We’re also inspired by the commitment of our president, and our secretary state and vice president, as well as others on all these issues.  The Global Nuclear Security Summit, just concluded.  The Nuclear Posture Review.  And next month, the NPT Review Conference.   I believe that this New START agreement marks a responsible beginning in America’s renewed commitment to the NPT, to securing all fissile material within four years.  It will ultimately help rally international support to confront nuclear terrorism.  

We’ve got a lot of work to do, there’s no question about that.  I started my remarks today by quoting John F. Kennedy.  He said later in his administration, in 1963, in a speech at American University, and I quote, that “our problems are man-made. Therefore they can be solved by man.  No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.  Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”  That’s something that inspires us in this discussion, not only of this START agreement, but also all the many challenges we face under the umbrella of nuclear security.

I’m also reminded as well about another president, about a hundred years earlier, Abraham Lincoln.  At Gettysburg, he said something that I think made sense to me for this challenge, whether it’s a START agreement or nuclear terrorism.  He said and I quote that “we’re dedicated here to the unfinished work.” 

It is not easy.  It is difficult.  But it some ways, it’s so consistent with, entirely consistent with the American character not only in our presidents but in our people.  As Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”  We look to the future knowing that we create our own future and that we have to work hard to get there.  So let it be said of us that we kept our promise under nuclear security.  That we met the challenges of proliferation.  That we met the challenge that confronts us on nuclear terrorism.  That we, as Lincoln, told us to do a long time ago, that we worked on the great task before us and our unfinished business.  Thank you very much.