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Treaty will strengthen U.S. national security

(Washington, D.C.)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the below statement following the Committee's approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia by a vote of 14-4, which will now move to the Senate floor. The Treaty will require reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic offensive nuclear weapons and strengthen U.S. goals to promote nuclear non-proliferation:

"I am very encouraged by the steps the Committee took today in favor of the New START Treaty," said Shaheen.  "The Treaty will strengthen our national security by reducing the number of nuclear weapons aimed at our homeland, preserving a strong and robust deterrent force to protect the U.S. and its allies, and restoring crucial verification measures to track Russia's nuclear stockpile that were lost when the START Treaty expired last year."

"New START also represents a significant step forward in building international support to curb the threat of nuclear terrorism.  We need to do what we can to keep nuclear materials and weapons out of the wrong hands and increase pressure on rogue regimes such as Iran to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons.  This treaty helps to fulfill America's nonproliferation obligations and increases our leverage in holding other countries accountable to meet their own commitments."

"We have now gone more than 280 days without critical intelligence we receive from an on-site verification and monitoring presence in Russia.  I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to approve the Treaty on the Senate floor as soon as possible."

Senator Shaheen wrote an editorial for today's issue of The Hill newspaper calling attention to the benefits of New START and the potential threats to U.S. national security if the Treaty is not approved. Senator Shaheen's editorial appears below.

New START is necessary

By Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on ratification of New START.

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on ratification of New START. From the beginning, committee members have sought to answer the question Defense Secretary Robert Gates posed earlier: Is the U.S. better off with this treaty or without it?  

After a careful and thorough examination, including 12 open and classified hearings, more than 20 expert hearing witnesses and overwhelming support from across the political spectrum - including the unanimous support of America's military leadership - it is clear America will be safer and more secure with this treaty than without it. New START will strengthen our country's national security, and a failure to ratify this treaty could lead to serious consequences as we work to protect our country from the threat of nuclear proliferation.

Since the end of the Cold War, the nuclear threat facing our country has evolved. The danger of a nuclear exchange between the world's two superpowers has subsided, but the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands has increased. We should not be blind to the consequences that nuclear terrorism presents to our world. New START represents a step forward in avoiding that nuclear nightmare.

Together, the U.S. and Russia account for more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons: an arsenal capable of incalculable damage. As global leaders of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, it is our solemn responsibility to ensure these weapons and materials do not fall into the wrong hands.  

If we are to curb the threat of proliferation and build support in the international community to meet this challenge, we will need to demonstrate to the world that our two nations are serious about responsible and verifiable reductions in our nuclear arsenals. New START accomplishes this objective by limiting the strategic nuclear forces of the U.S. and Russia. If ratified, the treaty will go far in meeting our ongoing commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and gives us added credibility to leverage all NPT members to meet their own obligations and commitments.  

In addition to limiting the number of strategically deployed weapons, New START could serve as the foundation for future negotiations on reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons that experts say pose a potential proliferation threat. As a number of witnesses testified, agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons will be much more difficult - if not impossible - without ratification of New START.

In addition, New START will advance U.S. national security by maintaining a credible deterrent for the U.S. and our allies and by guaranteeing verifiable reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons aimed at our homeland.  This is why seven former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) wrote to the Senate in July, urging the treaty's ratification and saying New START "will enhance American national security."    

New START will give us important insight into the Russian nuclear arsenal.  We have now gone more than 280 days without critical intelligence we receive from an on-site verification and monitoring presence in Russia. With the expiration of the original START in December 2009, U.S. inspectors lost access to dozens of Russian sites. If we don't ratify New START, we will lose this critical information. As outgoing Stratcom Commander General Kevin Chilton testified, "If we don't get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and ... we have no insight into what they're doing. So it's the worst of both possible worlds." In other words, failing to ratify the treaty will put American national security at risk.   

Failure to ratify the treaty would send a dangerous message to Russia and the rest of the world that the U.S. is abandoning the high ground with respect to nuclear reductions. Reversing decades of arms control policy would signal to the world the U.S. no longer stands behind its nuclear commitments and would undermine the basis for our global non-proliferation regime.

Arms control has a long history of strong bipartisan support in the Senate.  Previous generations of Senate leaders did not allow politics to get in the way of national security. The threat posed by nuclear terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear materials and a lack of transparency and access to Russia's nuclear program is too dangerous to delay action any further. We must do our part to help build a culture of nuclear accountability and transparency. New START provides that foundation, and the treaty deserves the Senate's ratification this year.