Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Alexander Supports New START Treaty

“It leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come.” – Lamar Alexander

“The president has committed to an $85 billion, 10-year plan to make sure these weapons work. The Treaty allows for inspection of Russian warheads. Our military leaders say it does nothing to interfere with development of our missile defense system. The last six Republican secretaries of state support the Treaty.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON,Deceber 21 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said he would vote to ratify the New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia, saying, “Americans are safer and more secure with the Treaty than without it.”

This week Alexander and three other senators sent a letter to President Obama asking that the president, first, include funding for nuclear modernization in his budget requests to Congress. Yesterday the president sent a letter of agreement in response.

In remarks on the Senate floor this morning, Alexander said:

“I have reviewed the plan that calls for spending $85 billion over the next ten years on nuclear modernization. I have visited our outdated nuclear weapons facilities. I am convinced that the plan’s implementation will make giant steps toward modernization of those facilities so that we – and our allies and adversaries – can be assured that the weapons will work if needed. The president’s statement that he will ask for these funds and the support of senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee means that the plan is more likely to become a reality. This will make sure the United States is not left with a collection of wet matches.”

Alexander said that under the terms of the Treaty, the United States:

  • will have up to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons, “each one up to 30 times more powerful than the one used at Hiroshima to end World War II”; and
  • will gain valuable data, including through inspection operations “that should provide a treasure trove of intelligence about Russian activities that we would not have without the treaty – and that we have not had since the START treaty expired on December 9, 2009.”
Alexander continued: “Over the weekend the president sent a letter to the Senate reaffirming ‘the continued development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems …’ There is nothing within the Treaty itself that would hamper the development or deployment of our missile defense. Our military and intelligence leaders all have said that. Obviously, something could happen down the road, for example, involving differences between Russia and the United States over missile-defense systems that could require either country to withdraw from the treaty. That is any sovereign country's right with any treaty. In 2002, President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because of our desire to pursue missile defenses to protect us from an attack by a rogue state.”

This week’s letter to the president was signed by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the chairman and ranking Republican member of the Appropriations Committee, and also by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Alexander, who are members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which funds nuclear weapons modernization through its annual appropriations bills.

My Comment
I know that many conservatives will be disappointed in Alexander for his stand on this issue. I am going to give Alexander the benefit of the doubt and assume he is doing the right thing.
I am not an expert on arms control and I am sure that few of those who are trying to stop this treaty are experts either, but I try to stay informed and you have to trust someone. I trust Senator Alexander and the process. This treaty is part of a process that began in 1991 and the treaty passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 14-4 and those voting in favor in committee included Republicans  Richard Lugar, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson. The Senate has had months to study this Treaty.  I support arms reduction and a continuation of the START Treaty process. It is worth remembering that the first START was an initiative of Ronald Reagan. Supporting arms reduction is not a liberal plot to weaken the United States. START has made the world a safer place.
Republican critics of this treaty have gained a concession from the President to support modernization of our nuclear arsenal. We should celebrate this victory and pass the treaty.  I hope that those who are opposing the treaty are opposing it due to an honest evaluation of the merits of the treaty and are not simply wanting to deny President Obama a foreign policy victory. This issue is too important to be used to play politics.

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