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December 22nd, 2010

Grassley Votes Against START Treaty

Senator Grassley issued this comment about his vote against the New START Treaty today:

“I voted against the Treaty because it makes the United States give up more than Russia, it’s silent on the major issue of tactical nuclear weapons, and the verification mechanism is weaker than START I, which I supported in 1992.  Amendments to make corrections were shot down in order to have the Treaty finalized by an arbitrary deadline and seemingly for a political victory.  Beyond that, the prospects of a nuclear war are far greater today with Iran and North Korea, so that’s where U.S. national security concerns and work should be primarily focused.”

In addition, the text of his extended statement follows here.

Floor Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Vote Against the New START Treaty
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mr. President.  Before I begin my remarks on the New START treaty, I’d like to point out to my colleagues that in 2002, I voted in favor of the Moscow Treaty.  I was also one of 93 Senators who voted in favor of START I in 1992.

I recognize the importance of maintaining a positive and cooperative relationship with Russia.  The proponents of the New START treaty argue that this treaty is necessary to continue the goodwill between our countries and the much-touted “reset” in our relations.  More importantly to me, however, are the merits of the treaty itself.  The Senate should not simply ratify this treaty to appease Russia or as a signal of cooperation with them.  The treaty should be considered based on its impact on our national security and the security of our allies.

A nuclear arms control treaty can be evaluated based on the level of parity it brings to the two parties.   In this regard, I believe this treaty falls short.  The fact is, while this treaty places new limits on warheads, as well as deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles, Russia is already below the limit on delivery vehicles.  The treaty primarily imposes new limits on the U.S., while requiring modest, if any, reductions on the Russian side.  Also alarming is that this treaty is silent on the matter of tactical nuclear weapons.  It is believed that Russia has a ten-to-one advantage over the U.S. in terms of tactical nuclear weapons.

The Administration has argued that this treaty is necessary to provide strategic stability.  However, if we’re reducing our strategic weapons without regard to Russia’s overwhelming advantage on tactical nuclear weapons, I question whether this reduction isn’t weakening strategic stability.  It should also be mentioned that some proponents of the New START treaty were critical of the 2002 Moscow Treaty for failing to reduce Russian tactical nuclear weapons.  I believe our leverage with the Russians to begin placing meaningful limits on tactical nuclear weapons existed with this treaty.  Now, I see no clear path to negotiating reductions in tactical nuclear weapons.

Like many of my colleagues, I have serious concerns about the inclusion of references to and limitations on U.S. plans for missile defense.  I don’t believe there should be a connection between strategic nuclear weapons reductions and our plans for missile defense.   I’m equally troubled that Russia issued a unilateral statement at the treaty’s signing stating that the treaty “may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative or quantitative build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States of America.”

It’s positive that the Resolution of Ratification makes a strong statement that the treaty does not limit the deployment of U.S. missile defense systems, other than those contained in Article Five.  It also says that the Russian statement on missile defense does not impose a legal obligation on the United States.  While I would have preferred that this treaty not contain any language on missile defense, I appreciate the work of the Foreign Relations Chairman and Ranking Member to include this language in the ratification resolution.  But the fact remains, this language is simply our opinion and is non-binding.

This treaty reverses the gains made in the Moscow Treaty which de-linked offensive and defensive capabilities.  Although a modified amendment on missile defense to the resolution of ratification was agreed to today, I’m disappointed that the Senate could not agree to the amendment offered by Senator McCain which would have stricken the language in the treaty’s preamble that arguably gives Russia a say on our future missile defense plans.

Finally, Mr. President, I also share the serious concerns related to the issue of verification.  It has been the subject of much debate, and deservedly so.  I agree with the sentiment that as our deployed strategic nuclear weapons are reduced, it becomes more and more critical that the remaining weapons can be relied upon.  As the number of weapons is reduced, it becomes more important that we know that the Russians are abiding by the limits of the treaty.

After reviewing the classified material presented by Senator Bond, Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have serious reservations about the new verification regime contained in the treaty.  Although Former Secretary of State James Baker supports ratification of the treaty, he stated that the verification mechanism in the New START treaty “does not appear as rigorous or extensive as the one that verified the numerous and diverse treaty obligations and prohibitions under START I.”

I do regret that without a treaty in place that there is no verification regime, and no U.S. inspectors monitoring Russia’s nuclear arms activities.  It’s important to point out, however, that the Obama Administration had the ability to extend the verification regime for five years, as provided for in START I.  But the Obama Administration failed to act.   The Administration also insisted there would be a “bridging agreement” to continue verification until the entry into force of a successor agreement.  This agreement was never completed either.

I’m deeply disappointed that in these areas of concern, the Senate is simply being asked to be a “rubber stamp” rather than fulfill our constitutional obligation to provide our advice on these important matters.  Had the advice of the Senate on these important issues been incorporated into the treaty, I believe it would have gained overwhelming bipartisan support.  Without addressing these areas in a meaningful way, I am reluctantly unable to support it.

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The Iowa Republican





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