– U.S. Sen. David Vitter today made the following remarks on the U.S. Senate floor about his opposition to the START treaty:
I am opposing ratification of this treaty because I think it makes us less secure, not more secure, as a nation.
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’s clear to me 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 world opinion. I think it’s dangerous to count on any of that or to look beyond the four corners of the treaty – the pros and cons of the treaty itself.
For me, four cons of the treaty are particularly worrisome:
*Roadblocks To Missile Defense: It is a fundamental mistake and a dangerous precedent for any treaty on offensive arms to even mention missile defense. 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. President Obama has already abandoned our missile defense sites in Eastern Europe to help produce agreement on this treaty by the Russians.
*Imbalanced Arms Reductions: We reduce our nuclear arms significantly; Russia stays where they already are. Meanwhile, we still aren’t getting to the issue of tactical nuclear weapons, a category where Russia has a huge ten-to-one advantage. We’ve talked about that for decades and still aren’t getting there. Clearly, when the U.S. has leverage to commit Russia to reduce their tactical nuclear weapons – which are the most vulnerable to end up in terrorists’ hands – it must be utilized for U.S. and global security. Instead, proponents of this treaty argue that a further treaty addressing tactical nuclear weapons is in the future, even though the U.S. used all the leverage we have on New START.
*Inability To Verify: This treaty does not give us the inspections and data we need to verify Russian compliance. And we know that Russia has cheated on every previous arms treaty with us. Verification is clearly less than in Start I but it now needs to be infallibly reliable because the nuclear deterrent is much smaller, and thus less room for error.
*Major But Inadequate Progress On Nuclear Modernization: Major progress has been made during the ratification debate on the Administration’s commitment and concrete plans for nuclear modernization, and I thank Senator Jon Kyl for his work that produced that conversation. But ultimately, neither the specificity of the Administration’s commitment – including the nuclear triad issue – nor the proposed schedule is adequate for our security needs. I’ll certainly continue fighting to get where we need to be.
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