Weekly Address: New START Treaty “Fundamental” to Security
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Weekly Address: New START Treaty “Fundamental” to Security

November 29, 2019


President Obama:
Today, I’d like to speak to
you about an issue that is fundamental to America’s
national security: the need for the Senate to approve the
New START Treaty this year. This Treaty is rooted in a
practice that dates back to Ronald Reagan. The idea is simple – as the two
nations with over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the
United States and Russia have a responsibility to work together
to reduce our arsenals. And to ensure that our national
security is protected, the United States has an
interest in tracking Russia’s nuclear arsenal through a
verification effort that puts U.S. inspectors on the ground. As President Reagan said when
he signed a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union in
1987, “Trust, but verify.” That is precisely what
the new START Treaty does. After nearly a full
year of negotiations, we completed an agreement
earlier this year that cuts by a third the number of long-range
nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles that the United
States and Russia can deploy, while ensuring that America
retains a strong nuclear deterrent, and can put
inspectors back on the ground in Russia. The Treaty also helped us
reset our relations with Russia, which leads to concrete benefits. For instance, Russia has been
indispensable to our efforts to enforce strong
sanctions on Iran, to secure loose nuclear
materials from terrorists, and to equip our
troops in Afghanistan. All of this will be put at risk
if the Senate does not pass the New START Treaty. Without ratification this year,
the United States will have no inspectors on the ground,
and no ability to verify Russian nuclear activities. So those who would block this
treaty are breaking President Reagan’s rule – they want
to trust, but not verify. Without ratification, we put at
risk the coalition that we have built to put pressure on Iran,
and the transit routes through Russia that we use to equip
our troops in Afghanistan. And without ratification, we
risk undoing decades of American leadership on nuclear security,
and decades of bipartisanship on this issue. Our security and our position
in the world are at stake. Indeed, since the Reagan years,
every President has pursued a negotiated, verified,
arms reduction treaty. And every time that these
treaties have been reviewed by the Senate, they have
passed with over 85 votes. Bipartisan support for new
START could not be stronger. It has been endorsed by
Republicans from the Reagan Administration and both Bush
Administrations – including Colin Powell, George Shultz,
Jim Baker, and Henry Kissinger. And it was approved by the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a strong
bipartisan vote of 14-4. Over the last several months,
several questions have been asked about New START, and we
have answered every single one. Some have asked whether
it will limit our missile defense – it will not. Some, including Senator Jon Kyl,
have asked that we modernize our nuclear infrastructure for the
21st century – we are doing so, and plan to invest at least $85
billion in that effort over the next ten years – a
significant increase from the Bush Administration. Finally, some make no argument
against the Treaty – they just ask for more time. But remember this: it has
already been 11 months since we’ve had inspectors in Russia,
and every day that goes by without ratification is a
day that we lose confidence in our understanding of
Russia’s nuclear weapons. If the Senate doesn’t act
this year – after six months, 18 hearings, and nearly a
thousand questions answered – it would have to start over
from scratch in January. The choice is clear: a failure
to ratify new START would be a dangerous gamble with
America’s national security, setting back our understanding
of Russia’s nuclear weapons, as well as our
leadership in the world. That is not what the
American people sent us to Washington to do. There is enough gridlock,
enough bickering. If there is one issue that
should unite us – as Republicans and Democrats – it should
be our national security. Some things are
bigger than politics. As Republican Dick Lugar
said the other day, “Every Senator has an obligation
in the national security interest to take a stand,
to do his or her duty.” Senator Lugar is right. And if the Senate
passes this treaty, it will not be an achievement
for Democrats or Republicans – it will be a win for America. Thanks.

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