Thursday, December 23, 2010

Corker Outlines Support for New START Treaty

Says It Should Be Called 'Nuclear Modernization and Missile Defense Act of 2010'

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today voted in favor of ratification of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty with Russia. The treaty was ratified by the Senate by a vote of 71 to 26.

"My only concern in consideration of this treaty has been the safety and security of the American people," said Corker. "In the final analysis, I am pleased to support a treaty that continues the legacy of President Reagan who signed the first nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia in 1987. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen says the treaty is vital to U.S. national security; I agree and am proud that as a result of ratification we have been successful in securing commitments from the administration on modernization of our nuclear arsenal and support of our missile defense programs, two things that would not have happened otherwise. In fact, thanks in part to the contributions my staff and I have been able to make, the New START treaty could easily be called the 'Nuclear Modernization and Missile Defense Act of 2010.'

"Like many of my colleagues and my constituents, I approached the original New START language with serious reservations. Over the past six months, I have used my position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to address those concerns. Let me outline the key issues:

"First, when START expired last year we lost our ability to know what is happening with Russia's nuclear arsenal. With New START's ratification we will once again have well-trained inspection teams - 'boots on the ground' - as a check on Russia, an exercise President Reagan called, 'Trust, but verify.' Additionally, I think many Americans will be glad to know the resolution of ratification states that New START only remains in the interest of the U.S. so long as Russia is in compliance with all components of the treaty, and that includes the ability of the U.S. to conduct verification activities. Either country may withdraw from the treaty at any time if they deem their national security interests are compromised.

"Second, I saw this entire process as an opportunity to push for long overdue investments in modernization of our existing nuclear arsenal and made clear I could not support the treaty's ratification without it. The U.S. is currently the only nuclear weapons country not adequately investing in modernization. If we are going to take weapons out of deployed status, I think most Americans would like to know the arms we do have will work and that our hedge of an additional 3,500 weapons is safe while in storage. I visited several of the nation's nuclear facilities around the country and if Americans had witnessed, as I did, the deteriorating state of our nuclear infrastructure and weapons, they would recognize the urgency to maintain them.

"Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and I have worked to ensure there are appropriate commitments from the administration and Senate appropriators to fully invest in the rehabilitation of the warheads and their components. I applaud and I thank Sen. Kyl for his vision on modernization and his doggedness in helping get the needed commitments in place. To date, we have received appropriate commitments to fully fund modernization and an update to the 10-year modernization plan for the nuclear weapons complex. In a letter to Senate appropriators dated December 20, 2010, the president confirmed that he would request funding levels outlined in the updated modernization plan. I believe these commitments accommodate current and future needs and are in line with our national security obligations.

"Third, the president sent a letter to Congress stating his commitment to the development and deployment of a robust U.S. missile defense system. I introduced an amendment codifying the key components of the letter and requiring that the president, prior to ratification of the treaty, certify to the Senate that our missile defense systems will continue to be developed, improved and deployed and communicate to Russia that continued development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems do not threaten the strategic balance with Russia and consequently do not constitute a basis to withdraw from the treaty. Additionally, my amendment added a statement of understanding that the preamble to the New START treaty does not in any way impose a legal obligation to the U.S. with regard to our missile defense systems. This amendment passed in the Senate and was included in the final resolution of ratification."

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker has conducted a thorough review of the treaty and its implications for national security, including scores of meetings, briefings and phone calls, and visits to several of the nation's nuclear facilities where the weapons work takes place.

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