Clinton, Gates Urge Senate to Ratify START

According to both secretaries, American national security “depends” on the new treaty with Russia.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington DC, May 18
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington DC, May 18 (Department of Defense/Chad J. McNeeley)

For months Republicans have managed to stall ratification of President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. Now that they have strengthened their position in both houses of Congress, the administration is afraid that New START will never be enacted.

New START, which was signed between Presidents Obama and Dmitri Medvedev of Russia in Prague last spring, is supported by both the administration and the country’s military leadership. A dozen former secretaries of state and defense have also come out in support of the treaty but a few Republicans are hesitating. They fear that by further downsizing America’s nuclear deterrent while delaying or refraining from modernization efforts, the United States could be at risk if the treaty is ratified.

Writing for The Washington Post, Secretaries Hillary Clinton of State and Robert Gates of Defense explain why New START should be ratified — as soon as possible.

Since the latest Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expired in December, American inspectors have not been able to verify the other side’s commitments. New START, the two secretaries argue, “will put in place an effective verification regime to track each side’s progress in reducing its arsenal to 1,550 strategic warheads. We will be able to count the number of deployed strategic weapons more accurately,” they point out, “because we will exchange more data on weapons and their movement than in the past.”

New START will also set the stage for future arms reductions, Clinton and Gates argue, including negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons. “It will help solidify the ‘reset’ of American relations with Russia, which has allowed us to cooperate in pursuit of our strategic interests.”

The Republicans’ procrastinating in the Senate is currently threatening the Russia “reset” which, according to the president, should send “a strong signal to Russia that we are serious about reducing nuclear arsenals, but also […] to the world that we’re serious about nonproliferation.” Two more sets of legislation are held up in the upper chamber: a civilian nuclear agreement with Russia that is supposed to increase cooperation and the repeal of decade-old trade restrictions in order to let the country join the World Trade Organization.

Clinton and Gates reject the notion that New START would undermine America’s own nuclear deterrent. “It will not limit our ability to develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses to protect America’s forces and territory,” they stress, “and to enhance the security of our allies and partners.” They add that the administration remains committed to improving the United States’ missile defense capabilities. It is planning to spend $10 billion next year to improve missile defense along with $100 billion over the next decade to modernize America’s nuclear forces.

In all, the administration proposes spending more than $180 billion on the infrastructure that sustains our nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them — a substantial investment in the credibility and efficacy of America’s nuclear deterrent.

In conclusion, New START deserves prompt ratification, according to Secretaries Clinton and Gates. “Our national security depends on it.”