Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Re: New START Treaty

Washington, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—May 18, 2010.

Well, Chairman Kerry and Senator Lugar and members of the committee, thank you for calling several hearings on the new START treaty and for this invitation to appear before you. We deeply appreciate your commitment to this critical issue. And I think both the Chairman and the Ranking Member’s opening statements made very clear what is at stake and how we must proceed in the consideration of this treaty in an expeditious manner.

It is a pleasure to testify along with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, because we share a strong belief that the new START treaty will make our country more secure. This treaty also reflects our growing cooperation with Russia on matters of mutual interest and it will aid us in advancing our broader nonproliferation agenda. To that end, we have been working closely with our P-5+1 partners for several weeks on the draft of a new sanctions resolution on Iran. And today, I am pleased to announce to this committee we have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China. We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today.

And let me say, Mr. Chairman, that I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide. There are a number of unanswered questions regarding the announcement coming from Tehran, and although we acknowledge the sincere efforts of both Turkey and Brazil to find a solution regarding Iran’s standoff with the international community over its nuclear program, the P-5+1, which consists, of course, of Russia, China, the United States, the UK, France, and Germany, along with the High Representative of the EU, are proceeding to rally the international community on behalf of a strong sanctions resolution that will, in our view, send an unmistakable message about what is expected from Iran.

We can certainly go into more detail about that during the Q&A. But let me turn to the matter at hand, because I think as convincingly as I can make the case for the many reasons why this new START treaty is in the interest of the national security of the United States of America, the relationship with Russia is a key part of that kind of security. And as Senator Lugar said in his opening remarks, during all the ups and downs, during the heights and the depths of the Cold War, one constant was our continuing efforts to work toward the elimination of and the curtailment of strategic arms in a way that built confidence and avoided miscalculation.

Now, some may argue that we don’t need the new START treaty. But the choice before us is between this treaty and no treaty governing our nuclear security relationship with Russia, between this treaty and no agreed verification mechanisms on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, between this treaty and no legal obligation for Russia to maintain its strategic nuclear forces below an agreed level. And as Secretary Gates has pointed out, every previous president who faced this choice has found that the United States is better off with a treaty than without one, and the United States Senate has always agreed. The 2002 Moscow Treaty was approved by a vote of 95 to nothing. The 1991 START treaty was approved by 93 to 6.

More than two years ago, President Bush began the process that has led to the new START treaty that we are discussing today. Now, it, too, has already received bipartisan support in testimony before this committee. And as the Chairman and the Ranking Member acknowledged, former Secretary James Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense for Presidents Nixon and Ford, Secretary of Energy for President Carter, declared that it is obligatory for the United States to ratify it.

Today, I’d like to discuss what the new START treaty is and what it isn’t. It is a treaty that, if ratified, will provide stability, transparency, and predictability for the two countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. It is a treaty that will reduce the permissible number of Russian and U.S.-deployed strategic warheads to 1,550. This is a level we have not reached since the 1950s. In addition, each country will be limited to 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic missile launchers and heavy bombers. These targets will help the United States and Russia bring our deployed strategic arsenals, which were sized for the Cold War, to levels that are appropriate for today’s threats.

This is a treaty that will help us track remaining weapons with an extensive verification regime. This regime draws upon our experience over the last 15 years in implementing the original START treaty which expired in December. The verification measures reflect today’s realities, including the fewer number of facilities in Russia compared with the former Soviet Union. And for the first time ever, we will be monitoring the actual numbers of warheads on deployed strategic missiles. Moreover, by bringing the new START treaty into force, we will strengthen our national security more broadly, including by creating greater leverage to tackle a core national security challenge – nuclear proliferation.

Now, I am not suggesting that this treaty alone will convince Iran or North Korea to change their behavior. But it does demonstrate our leadership and strengthens our hand as we seek to hold these and other governments accountable, whether that means further isolating Iran and enforcing the rules against violators or convincing other countries to get a better handle on their own nuclear materials. And it conveys to other nations that we are committed to real reductions and to holding up our end of the bargain under the Nonproliferation Treaty.

In my discussions with many foreign leaders, including earlier this month in New York at the beginning of the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, I have already seen how this new START treaty and the fact that the United States and Russia could agree has made it more difficult for other countries to shift the conversation back to the United States. We are seeing an increasing willingness both to be held accountable and to hold others accountable.

A ratified new START treaty would also continue our progress toward broader U.S.-Russia cooperation. We believe this is critical to other foreign policy priorities, including dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, cooperating on Afghanistan, and pursuing trade and investment. Already the negotiations over this treaty have advanced our efforts to reset the U.S.-Russian relationship. There is renewed vigor in our discussion on every level, including those between our presidents, our military leaders, and between me and my counterpart, Foreign Minister Lavrov. Now, our approach to this relationship is pragmatic and clear-eyed. And our efforts, including this treaty, are producing tangible benefits for U.S. national security.

At the same time, we are deepening and broadening our partnerships with allies. In my recent meetings in Tallinn, Estonia, with our other NATO allies, they expressed an overwhelmingly positive and supportive view of the new START treaty.

Now, there are also things that this new treaty will not do. As both Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen will discuss more fully, the new START treaty does not compromise the nuclear force levels we need to protect ourselves and our allies. The treaty does not infringe upon the flexibility we need to maintain our forces, including the bombers, submarines, and missiles, in a way that best serve our national security interest. The treaty does not constrain our plans for missile defense efforts.

Those of you who worked with me in the Senate know I take a backseat to no one in my strong support of missile defense, so I want to make this point very clearly: Nothing in the new START treaty constrains our missile defense efforts. Russia has issued a unilateral statement on missile defense expressing its views. We have not agreed to this view, and we are not bound by this unilateral statement. In fact, we’ve issued our own unilateral statement making it clear that the United States intends to continue improving and deploying our missile defense systems, and nothing in this treaty prevents us from doing so.

The treaty’s preamble does include language acknowledging the relationship between strategic offensive and defensive forces, but this is simply a statement of fact. It does not constrain our missile defense programs in any way. In fact, a similar provision was part of the original START treaty and did not prevent us from developing our missile defenses. The treaty does contain language prohibiting the conversion or use of offensive missile launchers for missile defense interceptors and vice versa, but we never planned to do that anyway. As General O’Reillly, our missile defense director, has said, it is actually cheaper to build smaller, tailor-made missile defense silos than to convert offensive launchers. And the treaty does not restrict us from building new missile defense launchers, 14 of which we are currently constructing in Alaska.

This Administration has requested 9.9 billion for missile defense in FY 2011, almost 700 million more than Congress provided in FY 2010. This request reflects our commitment to missile defense and our conviction that we have done nothing and there is no interpretation to the contrary that in any way undermines that commitment.

Finally, the new START treaty does not restrict our ability to modernize our nuclear weapons complex to sustain a safe, secure, and affective deterrent. This Administration has called for a 10 percent increase in the FY 2011 budget for overall weapons and infrastructure activities and a 25 percent increase in direct stockpile work. This was not in previous budgets. And during the next 10 years, this Administration proposes investing $80 billion into our nuclear weapons complex.

So let’s take a step back and put the new START treaty into a larger context. This treaty is only one part of our country’s broader efforts to reduce the threat posed by the deadliest weapons the world has ever known. And we owe special gratitude to Senator Lugar for his leadership and commitment through all the years on this issue. This Administration is facing head-on the problems of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. We have several coordinated efforts, including the Nuclear Posture Review, the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit, and the ongoing Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. While a ratified new START treaty stands on its own terms in the reflection of the benefits in national security for our country, it is also a part of our broader efforts.

So Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of this committee, thank you for having us here and for all of your past and future attention to this new START treaty. We stand ready to work with you as you undertake your constitutional responsibilities and to answer all your questions today and in the coming weeks. And we are confident that at the end of this process you will come to the conclusion that so many of your predecessors have shared over so many years on both sides of the aisle that this treaty makes our country more secure and merits the Senate’s advice and consent to ratification.