SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, everybody. Nice to be back in familiar surroundings. Let me start by thanking the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for hosting a breakfast this morning with leadership from both the House and the Senate on some of the most critical national security issues facing our country. And in particular, I want to thank both Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar for their outstanding leadership on the New START Treaty. With their stewardship, this treaty is ready to be voted on by the United States Senate. They have held a dozen hearings. Other committees have held an additional half dozen. They crafted a resolution of ratification, incorporating input from senators on both sides of the aisle, and they were ultimately able to usher the treaty through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a strong, bipartisan vote of 14 to 4.
As Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kerry has shown exceptional leadership on arms control. And Senator Lugar has devoted decades to ensuring the safety of the American people. Both of these leaders understand that nuclear weapons pose the unparalleled threat to our world.
Now, we’ve had very encouraging discussions over the past months with a number of senators, in particular with a number of Republican senators who share our commitment to ensuring a robust nuclear modernization program. We will continue and intensify those discussions in the coming days, and we are heartened that there well may be a bipartisan consensus emerging on the need for such funding.
Now recently some have suggested we should hit the pause button; that it is too difficult to do this treaty in a lame duck session. I strongly disagree. This is exactly what the American people expect us to do, to come together and do what is necessary to protect our country. We can and we must go forward now on the New START Treaty during the lame duck session. We have an opportunity to ratify this treaty and to lock in consensus on modernization funding.
And perhaps most importantly, and I want to stress this because I’m not sure that everybody really understands that when the prior treaty expired we lost the ability to have inspectors on the ground. We need to get our inspectors back into Russia after a gap of nearly a year. As our intelligence and defense colleagues have repeatedly noted, we are much better off with New START than without it. Jim Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said yesterday, the earlier, the sooner, the better. We need the stability, transparency, and predictability that New START will provide by giving us insight into Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal. That is a rationale that previous presidents and congresses of both the Republican and the Democratic Parties have repeatedly and overwhelmingly supported.
This is also a treaty that is critical to our bilateral relationship with Russia. We have enhanced our cooperation to the benefit of our country on Iran, on Afghanistan, on nuclear nonproliferation, on counterterrorism, and on counternarcotics. That’s why our entire military leadership, as well as six former secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense, three former national security advisors, and seven former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command support this treaty and support it now. Now, we look forward to the Senate quickly completing its advice and consent process.
And I want to stress how the American people want to see Republicans and Democrats working together on behalf of national security. That’s why in 1991, under a Republican president, the Senate approved the START Treaty by a vote of 93 to 6. That’s why in 2002, under a Republican president, the Senate approved the Moscow Treaty, which included no verification measures by 95 to nothing. I had the privilege of voting for that treaty. This treaty deserves the same overwhelming bipartisan support.
SENATOR KERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton, for joining us today. We had a very broad discussion on all of the national security challenges to our country today from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq to the Middle East. And the Secretary was comprehensive in her engagement with members of the House and the Senate leadership. But this issue of the START Treaty is really at the top of the list and it was at the top of the discussion.
Our country is strongest and we protect it best when we come together in a bipartisan way or in a nonpartisan way. And historically, we have made our greatest advances in terms of national security when we leave politics at the water’s edge. That’s how we got a 95 to nothing vote on the Moscow Treaty, which had no verification at all, as the Secretary just said. People who are today in the Senate on the other side of the aisle, voted for that Moscow Treaty. Here we have a treaty that for the first time provides additional ability to count warheads on both sides. Here we have a treaty that allows us to have a spot random inspection to find out what the other side is doing. But for one year now we have had no inspections, no American boots on the ground in Russia able to protect American interests. And we will not have them on the ground protecting American interests until this treaty is ratified.
We’re in two conflicts, two wars right now. We face the threat of terror every single day. We face the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons. This treaty is the best way to reduce and address threats to our country, and we need to proceed forward to address it now. Now, we have reached out for months. I made a decision as a chairman to delay asking for a vote on this at the request of a number of members on the other side of the aisle so we could give people more time to be able to evaluate this treaty. We have done that. As of today, I know that the last questions that were posed by some senators have been answered, and those questions up here on the Hill available for analysis.
The American people have just expressed their will in a very divisive, difficult election year. They asked the United States Congress to do its business. They asked the Congress to get rid of the politics. They asked us to protect American interests. And it is this Congress that has done the work on this treaty. It is these senators, elected here and now, who have a constitutional responsibility now to deal with this treaty. It is this Congress that has done its homework, analyzed the treaty, gone to the hearings. These are the senators who have the responsibility to vote. And the President and the Secretary of State, the Vice President, who has been deeply engaged in this, are asking the United States Senate to do its job.
Now, let me just say I talked yesterday with a number of senators on the other side of the aisle, and we discussed the outstanding issues. As of now, there is no substantive disagreement on this treaty. What separates apparently the sense of ability to move forward is a question about money out 10 years into the future, for modernization. As of now, the President has put $80 billion on the table for modernization and an additional 4.1 billion to meet the request of Senator Kyl. And so, Senator, in a way, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the President of the United States, the Secretary of State have all said we’re committed to the modernization. As to next year, the House of Representatives will be run by the Republicans, and we would hope that a Republican leader in the Senate can get an agreement from a Republican in the House as to what is going to go forward with respect to that.
So we stand ready to negotiate. We have two weeks. We’re going to be out of here over the course of the Thanksgiving break. We stand ready to work on any day during that period of time. We have at least two weeks before this might come before the Senate. I refuse to believe that the door shouldn’t remain open, that we can’t find the good faith to negotiate on behalf of our country in order to deal with the modernization funding and in order to resolve any outstanding questions. The national security of our country demands nothing less than that effort, and we are committed to providing it. And I’ve had no – one could have no greater partner. Vice President Biden shared that privilege for 36 years or so. I’ve shared it now for 25 years with Senator Lugar. There’s no stronger, more powerful voice for common sense with respect to proliferation and counterproliferation efforts than Senator Lugar, and we appreciate his leadership on this enormously.
SENATOR LUGAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam Secretary. Let me simply summarize this point of view. We’re talking today about the national security of the United States of America. The point is not simply a debate among senators at this point, it is a voice of the American people that has to inform senators that this treaty must be ratified and must be ratified in this session of the Congress. Why? Because, as Senator Kerry and Secretary Clinton have pointed out, since December 5, last December 5, we’ve had no boots on the ground to inform us of what, in fact, is occurring with regard to the nuclear weapons of Russia.
This is very serious. In my office, we have a scorecard that says at the beginning of the so-called Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, there were 13,300 nuclear warheads aimed at us, our cities, our military installations, everything we have – 13,300. I’ve stated frequently to my constituents any one of those warheads could obliterate the city of Indianapolis and there are thousands still there. The American public might have forgotten about it. The senators may have forgotten about it. We are deeply concerned about North Korea and Iran and other programs in which there are maybe one, two, five, 20. But we’re talking about thousands of warheads that are still there, an existential problem for our country. To temporize at this point I think is inexcusable.
Now I have supported the modernization of our nuclears. I’ve supported all the efforts of the President, Senator Kerry, and to work with others in the Republican Party essentially, but we are at a point where we are unlikely to have either the treaty or modernization unless we get real. That’s the point of our meeting today, and I appreciate the Secretary sharing so vividly her impressions of indefatigable travel. I appreciate the chairman’s patience through the hearings, through negotiations. We thank each one of you for helping us share this with the American people.
MODERATOR: Are there any questions?
QUESTION: What are you telling the Russians right now about the status? Is it really dead in the water (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope that through our own outreach efforts to the Russians, which have been ongoing as we have discussed the process of ratifying this treaty, I hope the statement from the Vice President, I hope that the very strong statements that you just heard from Senators Kerry and Lugar send an unmistakable message that we intend to do everything we can during this lame duck session to get a vote to ratify this treaty. And I think it is, to me, essential that we bring this before the Senate. I think what Senator Lugar said is so important. Nobody knows more about this issue than Senator Lugar. And for anyone to think that we can postpone it or we can avoid it is, I’m afraid, vastly underestimating the continuing threat that is posed to our country. So we hope our friends in the Senate will bring this up, pass this treaty, and then I can inform the Russians that it’s now their turn to do the same, which they’ve told us they will intend to do.
QUESTION: Secretary, do you believe that you have enough votes to get this treaty passed? And don’t you think that the Republicans are trying to go after the START for political reasons, which has nothing to do (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that both Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar are experts at dealing with their Senate colleagues. I had the privilege, as you know, to serve with them for eight years. They both believe that this must be done in the lame duck. The Administration will stand with them, will do whatever it takes, literally around the clock, to reach out, to answer questions, to have discussions, because we – this is not an issue that can afford to be postponed. So we think once we take that message with the urgency that you’ve heard from the three of us, we will get the votes and we will pass this treaty. Thank you all very much.
SENATOR KERRY: Thank you all very much.
SENATOR LUGAR: Thank you very much.