SHAHEEN DISCUSSES THE NUCLEAR THREAT AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE

May 10, 2011

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) delivered a keynote address Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace during the Arms Control Association’s (ACA) annual meeting “Reducing the Nuclear Danger.”

Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on European Affairs, has been a strong advocate for nuclear non-proliferation and was a leading voice in ratifying the New START Treaty. This bilateral arms agreement between the United States and Russia allows the United States to resume critical inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and will reduce the number of nuclear warheads aimed at the United States by 30 percent within seven years. Shaheen spoke on the success of the New START Treaty and discussed the next steps towards securing nuclear materials around the globe and further preventing the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Her remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Thank you, Dr. Wing, for that kind introduction.  It is a pleasure to be here today. 

I understand that you have had a very constructive day and have already heard from an impressive line-up, including Ellen Tauscher and my colleague Senator Bob Casey.  Both Ellen and Bob were strong allies during the recent New START debate, and I’m honored to join them today in addressing you.

I want to first thank Daryl Kimball and the Arms Control Association for hosting this event and for your leadership on such a critically important issue to America’s national security.

I know the theme today is focused on the next steps in arms control and nonproliferation, but I think it’s always important to take a step back and see where we’ve been before we decide where we’re going. 

We’ve had a pretty good two years, haven’t we? (pause)  Since President Obama’s Prague agenda was first announced in April of 2009, the U.S. has re-established our global leadership on the nuclear agenda. 

We had a successful NPT Review Conference, which led to a consensus document for the first time in ten years. The Nuclear Posture Review reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.  We successfully pressed for a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council – a feat which many thought was not possible.  The United States also convened the first of its kind, Nuclear Security Summit, which rallied the international community to press for securing all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.

Obviously, at the top of our list was the successful ratification of the New START Treaty in the United States Senate.

Originally envisioned to be “low-hanging fruit,” the ratification of New START became a difficult debate linking together every possible interest tied to the nuclear field, including modernization, tactical nuclear weapons, missile defense, delivery systems, and many other issues.  Eventually, the obvious benefits to New START and the overwhelming support from the past seven Presidential administrations won over enough Senators to ratify the treaty. 

New START was a big triumph for our national security interests, and I was pleased to play a small part in its passage.  Being relatively new to these issues, I was especially proud to have been one of a few Senators invited to the Oval Office for the signing of New START.  In addition, I had the opportunity to be in Munich with Secretary Clinton to witness the official exchange of the New START instruments of ratification. 

I want to take a moment to really thank all of you for your support during this process.  The advocacy organizations, the think tanks, and the NGO communities really came through for us in a big way.  Having witnessed it first-hand, I can say that you were absolutely critical for me and my staff during the Senate debate.  The op-eds, letters to the editors, phone calls, rapid analyses, and interviews all helped win the argument on its merits in the media and at home. 

Because of your efforts, when New START is fully implemented, the United States and Russia will have the fewest deployed warheads since the 1950’s.

As we look forward to future efforts in the Senate, I think it is also important to recognize some of the advantages we had during New START.  We had strong, bipartisan support from nearly every living former national security official.  We had the full support of the President and his entire administration – including 100% backing from the military, as well as the National Labs.  We were arguing for a resumption of something that had expired – not something that was new.  And, we had a ticking clock on the inspections side.  

As we begin to think about future treaties or arms control agreements, it will be difficult to try to replicate all of those things that were in our favor for New START. 

So, what next?  Obviously, New START was a high-profile success.  There are several equally high-profile treaties on our agenda; however, each of them will be difficult and will require some significant time and effort. 

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, for instance, will require a major education and information campaign.  I know Ellen Tauscher spoke earlier today making the case for CTBT. You all know the security arguments in favor of the treaty, and there is no doubt that technical advances and new monitoring techniques have changed the contours of the debate since it was last considered in 1999.

However, like any Senate staff, our office is good at counting votes, and we have some work to do.  Of the 48 “yes” votes back in October of 1999, only half of those Senators are still now in the Senate.  In addition, in 2013, at least 55 Senators will have been newly elected since 2005.  This means we have some work to do on Capitol Hill if we are to make the case to a relatively young U.S. Senate.  

Another high-profile treaty being discussed is a follow-on bilateral agreement with Russia. This, too, will require a heavy lift both from the Administration and in the Senate. The outlines of such a follow-on treaty are very much unclear. Both countries still maintain significant deployed, non-deployed, and tactical nuclear weapons in their stockpiles. As we saw during the debate on New START, all of these complex issues will play a role in future negotiations.  This – like CTBT – will be difficult, but that just means we should start now. 

I think it is also important to focus on the lower-profile – but still valuable – initiatives that will not require 67 Senate votes.

For example, on the U.S.-Russia bilateral front, it would be prudent to explore some of the recommendations made by Secretary Albright in her recent op-ed.  Ideas like accelerating New START reductions, de-alerting the status of some of our nuclear weapons, missile defense cooperation, and re-energizing consultations on the Iranian threat should all be something to take a close look at in the coming year.

In addition, I think it is very important for us to shift more focus, time, and resources onto nonproliferation and nuclear security in the months ahead.  The threat of nuclear terrorism remains perhaps our greatest national security challenge today. 

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “Every senior leader, when you’re asked what keeps you awake at night, it’s the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear.” 

Estimates suggest that the global stockpile of highly enriched uranium in 2010 was enough to make more than 60,000 nuclear weapons.  The fact that many of these stockpiles are growing and remain unsecure is a sobering and alarming fact.  And, the discovery that Osama bin Laden – the global face of terrorism – was found to be hiding out in Pakistan, the world’s fifth largest nuclear power, should keep us all awake at night.   

Unfortunately, not everyone on the Hill understands the urgency.  We saw the House recommend a $600 million cut to critical nuclear nonproliferation programs in this year’s budget.  Considering the threat posed by a single nuclear weapon falling into the wrong hands, this decision is incomprehensible. Even when fully funded, U.S. nonproliferation efforts amount to far less than 1% of U.S. national security spending.  We will need your help in the coming budget cycles to make the case that nuclear nonproliferation should remain a priority.

We have accomplished a lot in the last two years.  We have done much to – as President Eisenhower said – “help solve the fearful atomic dilemma” and to “find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.” 

Eisenhower’s quote is particularly appropriate, as New START will bring us back to the deployed levels seen during his day.  However, as we all know, we have a long way to go to meet this difficult challenge.  I look forward to continue working with you on this effort.  Thank you for your time today, and I am happy to take a couple questions.

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