SANTIAGO, Chile, Nov. 20, 2010 — “Serious consequences” could result if the Senate fails to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
Gates spoke at a news conference with Chilean Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet after the two defense leaders met at the Gen. Bernardo O’Higgins Military Academy.
The secretary said the consequences of failure to ratify the treaty have not received adequate attention.
“First, and the one we’ve spoken of most frequently, is the absence of any ability to conduct on-site inspections in Russia,” the secretary said. “We have been without this ability and the verification measures that have been developed in previous strategic agreements with the Russians in terms of verifying what their capabilities are and monitoring, keeping track of, their strategic developments.”
Failure to ratify the treaty could have political consequences for the relationship between the United States and Russia, Gates said.
“It isn’t just limited to this narrow subject, but reflects on the relationship as a whole,” he said. “And the truth of the matter is the Russians, in the last year or two, have been very cooperative, first of all, helping us establish the Northern Distribution Network to help supply Afghanistan, including a recent decision at my request to allow us to move these mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles – MRAPs – across Russia.” In addition, the secretary said, the Russians also supported the recent U.N. Security Council resolution on Iran.
The internal political situation in Russia could change if the treaty fails, he added, which could affect the level of Russian cooperation in other matters.
“These are all unknowns, but I think [they are] potential worries if the treaty isn’t ratified,” Gates said. “The reality is — despite what anybody says — I, as secretary of defense, and the entire uniformed leadership of the American military believe that this treaty is in our national security interest.”
The secretary said the nation’s military leadership believes the treaty doesn’t limit the United States’ ability to deploy missile defense systems or to move forward in other ways. “Anything that we have in mind now or in the years to come – that we have even thought of – is not prohibited,” he said. “And at the same time, [the treaty] does continue to provide predictability in terms of strategic deployments on both sides. It doesn’t limit us when it comes to prompt global strike.” The treaty also brings support for modernization of the U.S. nuclear enterprise, Gates said.
“I think the failure to ratify the treaty puts that at high risk,” he added. “There would be significant consequences in the failure to ratify the new START treaty.” President Barack Obama used his weekly address to the nation today to address START ratification.
“Without ratification this year, the United States will have no inspectors on the ground, and no ability to verify Russian nuclear activities,” the president said. “So those who would block this treaty are breaking President [Ronald] Reagan’s rule – they want to trust, but not verify.
“Without ratification,” he continued, “we put at risk the coalition that we have built to put pressure on Iran, and the transit route 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.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)