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Delay is a dangerous gamble with American national security

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on European Affairs, released the following statement in response to comments today at the Heritage Foundation by Senator Jim DeMint, who opposes the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START):

"We should not play partisan politics when it comes to nuclear weapons.  In a speech this morning at the Heritage Foundation, my colleague, Senator Jim DeMint claimed that the New START Treaty weakens our national security.  Nearly the entire foreign policy and national security establishment - Democrats and Republicans alike - completely disagrees with him. 

"Senator DeMint is arguing that this treaty somehow weakens our national security and limits our strategic options. His argument has little basis in reality.  Senator DeMint is opposed by every living former Secretary of State, five former Secretaries of Defense, nine former National Security Advisors, seven former commanders of our strategic nuclear weapons, and former President George H. W. Bush.  All of these national security heavyweights argue the exact opposite of Senator DeMint, and they all agree that the New START Treaty strengthens our national security.  

"The New START Treaty has the unanimous backing of America's military leadership and America's NATO allies, and according to the most recent CBS News poll, the treaty now has the support of 82 percent of Americans.   

"Now is the time to vote on the New START Treaty.  No one is rushing this treaty.  Since the treaty was signed in April, the Senate has had 245 days to thoroughly review and consider this agreement.  After 20 Senate hearings, more than 31 witnesses, more than 900 questions and answers, and 8 months of consideration - including a significant delay during the August recess for additional time for consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - the consensus is clear: New START is in our national security interests, and the Senate should not wait any longer to ratify this treaty.

"So, I ask opponents of this treaty to consider our broader national security concerns. Think about the effect stalling this treaty or publicly rejecting it will have, not just on our ability to monitor Russia, but on all of our counter-proliferation efforts around the world.  Failing to ratify New START this year tells the world we are not serious about the nuclear threat. 

"I know my colleagues do not want Iran to have the bomb, or North Korea, or al Qaeda.  If we abdicate our position as leaders on nuclear arms control, then we lose the authority to build international coalitions to stop rogue nations and proliferation around the globe.  Last week, in a Washington Post op-ed, five former Republican Secretaries of State wrote in support of the START Treaty and made a compelling case linking this treaty to the threats posed by Iran, North Korea, and terrorists seeking ‘loose nukes.' 

"I ask opponents, again, are ideological goals worth these kinds of risks? Delaying a vote on the New START Treaty into next year is a dangerous and unnecessary gamble with our nation's security."

Last week, Senator Shaheen led a group of five U.S. Senators down to the floor to call on the Senate to ratify the New START Treaty this year.  In mid-November, Senator Shaheen coordinated a joint press release from six U.S. Senators from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee calling for a vote on the New START Treaty this year (full release here).

In September 2010, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the New START Treaty by a strong and bipartisan 14-4 decision.  The Committee thoroughly examined the treaty in conducting 12 open and classified hearings, featuring more than 20 expert witnesses.  In total, the Senate conducted over 20 total hearings on the subject.  

The treaty has earned the unanimous backing of America's military leadership, including the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the commander of our nation's strategic forces, and the director of the Missile Defense Agency.  America's military was joined in its support by nine former Secretaries of State, five former Secretaries of Defense, the chair and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, and seven former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command.  National security experts from both parties and from seven former presidential administrations urged the Senate to approve this treaty.

Since the previous START Treaty expired more than a year ago, the United States has been unable to inspect Russia's nuclear arsenal and obtain vital intelligence for American military planners.  The New START Treaty would allow these critical inspections to resume and would make sure that the U.S. can - in the words of former President Ronald Reagan - "Trust, but verify" Russia's nuclear commitments.