State Department Testimony Before Congress Re: Nuclear Posture Review

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 22, 2010.  The following testimony was presented today by Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at today’s hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

Chairman Levin, Ranking Member McCain, and distinguished members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the State Department’s role in protecting the United States and our allies from today’s most pressing threats. I am honored to appear with my colleagues Jim Miller, Tom D’Agostino, and General Chilton.

President Obama outlined several steps last year to strengthen our national security by reducing the role and numbers of nuclear weapons.

In the past month, we have advanced that agenda by releasing the Nuclear Posture Review, signing the New START Treaty, and hosting the Nuclear Security Summit.

Let me say a few words about the New START Treaty and missile defenses.

I spent much of March in Geneva to help conclude the New START Treaty. It will enhance our security by reducing and limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces. Those limits were guided by rigorous analysis in the NPR. The new Treaty will promote strategic stability by ensuring transparency and predictability. And it will advance our nonproliferation agenda by demonstrating that we are meeting our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations.

The New START Treaty does not constrain U.S. missile defense programs. The United States will continue to improve our missile defenses, as needed, to defend the U.S. homeland, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners.

Russia’s unilateral statement on missile defenses is not legally-binding. It won’t constrain U.S. missile defense programs. As the administration’s Ballistic Missile Defense Review and our budget plans make clear, we will deploy the most effective missile defenses possible, and the New START Treaty does not impose any additional cost or inconvenience to those efforts.

At this time, Mr. Chairman, I would ask permission to submit for the record the United States and Russian unilateral statements on missile defenses associated with the New START Treaty.

In addition to reaffirming our commitment to missile defenses, the NPR also supports the goal of bolstering nonproliferation. We want to give more incentive to non-nuclear states not to seek or acquire nuclear weapons. So we updated our Negative Security Assurance (NSA) to make it clear that non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT who comply with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations do not have to fear a U.S. nuclear attack.

I want to clarify what this new Negative Security Assurance does and does not do. For non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation commitments, we are removing only the possibility of nuclear retaliation. For such states, we retain the prospect of using devastating conventional force to deter and respond to any aggression, especially if they were to use chemical or biological weapons.

No one should doubt our resolve to hold accountable those responsible for such aggression, whether those giving the orders or carrying them out. Deterrence depends on the credibility of the response. A massive and potent conventional response to non-nuclear aggression is highly credible.

We also reserve the right to readjust the Negative Security Assurance if warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat.

The updated Negative Security Assurance does not alter our current policy on the use of nuclear weapons toward nuclear armed states or non-nuclear weapon states not in compliance with the NPT and their nuclear nonproliferation obligations, such as North Korea and Iran. In other words, for this group of states, we have retained calculated ambiguity.

But I want to stress that the NPR states the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.

Nuclear weapons have not been used in nearly 65 years. The bar for their use is high and this NPR recognizes that fact. It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the long record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.

Let me close by noting that former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and Jim Schlesinger, the leaders of the bipartisan Strategic Posture Commission, wrote recently that the NPR approach on declaratory policy was “ sensible.”

They concluded that the NPR provides a “comprehensive and pragmatic plan for reducing nuclear risks to the United States.”

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member McCain, I look forward to working with this Committee and the Senate on these important matters and I look forward to answering any questions that you might have.