USA — Gates, Mullen Urge Senate to Ratify Arms Reduction Treaty

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2010 — The Unit­ed States is bet­ter off with the new strate­gic arms reduc­tion treaty with Rus­sia than it is with­out it, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also urged the com­mit­tee to rat­i­fy the agree­ment, say­ing the treaty has the full sup­port of uni­formed lead­ers. Gates and Mullen tes­ti­fied along­side Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Steven Chu.

The agree­ment reduces U.S. and Russ­ian strate­gic nuclear forces in a way that strength­ens the sta­bil­i­ty of the U.S.-Russian rela­tion­ship, Gates said. The agree­ment, he added, also pro­tects the secu­ri­ty of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and “does not in any way con­strain our mis­sile defense pro­grams.”

The sec­re­tary stressed that the treaty will not con­strain the Unit­ed States from deploy­ing the most effec­tive mis­sile defens­es pos­si­ble, nor will it impose addi­tion­al costs or bar­ri­ers on those defens­es.

“I remain con­fi­dent in the U.S. mis­sile defense pro­gram, which has made con­sid­er­able advance­ments, includ­ing the test­ing and devel­op­ment of the SM-3 mis­sile which we will deploy in Europe,” he said.

Rus­sia con­tin­ues to object to U.S. mis­sile defense. Still, Gates said, the Amer­i­can sys­tem is designed to inter­cept a lim­it­ed num­ber of bal­lis­tic mis­siles launched by a rogue state.

“Our mis­sile defens­es do not have the capa­bil­i­ty to defend against the Russ­ian Federation’s large, advanced arse­nal,” he explained. “Con­se­quent­ly, U.S. mis­sile defens­es do not, and will not, affect Russia’s strate­gic deter­rent.”

The Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to try to get the Rus­sians to coop­er­ate on mis­sile defense, Gates said.

The new treaty also does not restrict U.S. abil­i­ty to devel­op and deploy con­ven­tion­al prompt glob­al strike capa­bil­i­ties that could attack tar­gets any­where on the globe in an hour or less, the sec­re­tary said.

The treaty lim­its the Unit­ed States to 700 deployed deliv­ery vehi­cles and no more than 1,550 deployed war­heads, and Gates empha­sized that the treaty’s ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­vi­sions will allow the Unit­ed States to ensure the Rus­sians hold up their end of the agree­ment.

“In my view, a key con­tri­bu­tion of this treaty is its pro­vi­sion for a strong ver­i­fi­ca­tion regime,” he said. “I would like to empha­size some of the key ele­ments of this regime, which will mon­i­tor Russia’s com­pli­ance with the treaty, while also pro­vid­ing impor­tant insights into the size and com­po­si­tion of Russ­ian strate­gic forces.”

Each side can con­duct up to 18 on-site inspec­tions each year at oper­at­ing bases for inter­con­ti­nen­tal mis­siles, nuclear-capa­ble sub­marines and nuclear-capa­ble heavy bombers as well as stor­age facil­i­ties, test ranges and con­ver­sion and elim­i­na­tion facil­i­ties, Gates said. The agree­ment estab­lish­es a data­base updat­ed every six months, which will help pro­vide the Unit­ed States with a rolling over­all pic­ture of Russia’s strate­gic offen­sive forces and vice ver­sa.

“Unique iden­ti­fiers, for the first time, will be assigned to each ICBM, SLBM and nuclear-capa­ble heavy bomber, allow­ing us to track account­able sys­tems through­out their life cycle,” Gates said.

The U.S. nuclear deter­rent remains a cru­cial capa­bil­i­ty, the sec­re­tary said, and to ensure its cred­i­bil­i­ty, the nation must main­tain an ade­quate stock­pile of safe, secure and reli­able nuclear war­heads.

“This calls for a rein­vig­o­ra­tion of our nuclear weapons com­plex – our infra­struc­ture and our sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy and engi­neer­ing base,” Gates said. “And I might just add, I’ve been up here for the last four springs try­ing to get mon­ey for this, and this is the first time I think I’ve got a fair shot of actu­al­ly get­ting mon­ey for our nuclear arse­nal.”

Mullen assured the sen­a­tors that the U.S. mil­i­tary leadership’s per­spec­tives and concern’s were heard.

“Dur­ing the devel­op­ment of the new START treaty, I was per­son­al­ly involved,” the admi­ral said, “to include two face-to-face nego­ti­at­ing ses­sions and sev­er­al oth­er con­ver­sa­tions with my coun­ter­part, the chief of the Russ­ian Gen­er­al Staff, Gen­er­al [Niko­lai] Makarov, regard­ing key aspects of the treaty.”

Mullen spoke for the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before the com­mit­tee, and he said the treaty retains a strong and flex­i­ble Amer­i­can nuclear deter­rent.

“It helps strength­en open­ness and trans­paren­cy in our rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia,” he said. “It also demon­strates our nation­al com­mit­ment to reduc­ing the world­wide risk of a nuclear inci­dent result­ing from the con­tin­u­ing pro­lif­er­a­tion of nuclear weapons.”

Both Gates and Mullen urged rat­i­fi­ca­tion. Gates said the agree­ment is good for today and the future.

“It increas­es sta­bil­i­ty and pre­dictabil­i­ty, allows us to sus­tain a strong nuclear tri­ad, pre­serves our flex­i­bil­i­ty to deploy the nuclear and non-nuclear capa­bil­i­ties need­ed for effec­tive deter­rence and defense,” the sec­re­tary said. “In light of all these fac­tors, I urge the Sen­ate to give its advice and con­sent to rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the new treaty.”

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