Obama Calls for Treaty Ratification in Weekly Address

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today used his week­ly address to the nation to under­score the impor­tance of rat­i­fy­ing the new Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty this year, call­ing the treaty fun­da­men­tal to nation­al secu­ri­ty.
Here is the text of the president’s mes­sage:

Today, I’d like to speak with 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 led to con­crete ben­e­fits. For instance, Rus­sia has been indis­pens­able to our efforts to enforce strong sanc­tions on Iran, to secure loose nuclear mate­r­i­al from ter­ror­ists, and to equip our troops in Afghanistan.

All of this will be put to 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 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.

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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