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Diplomacy in Action

New START Treaty

Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation
University of Notre Dame, Kroc Institute
South Bend, IN
September 21, 2010


Date: 09/21/2010 Description: Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller speaks at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana. © Kroc Institute photo

Thank you for the kind introduction, David. It is always nice to be back in the Midwest. I am a Midwesterner myself; I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. My father was a life-long OSU fan, so I spent many a Saturday cheering on the Buckeyes, so you’ll have to forgive me for that. Still, I think the Fighting Irish can take Stanford this weekend, no problem. I am particularly glad to be in Indiana today. Senator Richard Lugar, who represents this great state, has always been a champion of arms control and nonproliferation. His patient, but unrelenting efforts to push aside partisan politics in order to advance the New START Treaty through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week is a testament to his devotion to American national security and his legacy as a great leader. You are all lucky to have a representative like him in Washington.

It is my great honor to be a guest at the Kroc Institute here at Notre Dame. I am an admirer of both founders of this institute, Reverend Theodore Hesburgh and Joan Kroc. Their tireless work for social justice, conflict resolution, and the abolition of nuclear weapons is truly inspiring. The Kroc Institute’s dedication and commitment to understanding the nuanced dynamics of conflict, peace building and negotiations gives me hope that we are training the next generation of Americans to deal with the unpredictable world they will inherit. I also want to thank the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation and the Physicians for Social Responsibility for their help in organizing this event. Both groups are doing amazing work to reduce the nuclear threat worldwide.

As you’ve heard, I am the Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, known as “VCI” in the alphabet soup of government acronyms. Of course, since we are hundreds of miles outside the Beltway, that probably does not mean a lot to you. In a nutshell, VCI is the arms control treaty bureau of the Department of State. VCI’s core missions are to not just lead negotiations, but – as our name explicitly states – to ensure that appropriate verification requirements and capabilities are integrated throughout the development, negotiation, and implementation of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements.

I know in this day and age, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, arms control might seem a little dated. You might even consider me a relic. I am a Russian speaker. I am the government’s chief arms control negotiator. I am both of these things when Afghanistan, ideological extremism, and terrorism are among our most pressing and immediate national security threats.

It is true that since 1991, arms control has not gotten the attention from the media and public that it once did. Back in 1963, Pope John XXIII spoke of people “living in the grip of constant fear of horrific violence” and called for the outright ban on nuclear weapons. The whole world was aware of the bomb. Almost fifty years later, there are still thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons in the world, but the average American does not spend much time worrying about nuclear threats. When was the last time you even heard of someone doing a duck-and-cover drill?

But the threat is real and in fact, it may have gotten worse. The long standing principle of deterrence - the idea that a country would not initiate a nuclear war for fear of nuclear retaliation - does not apply to terrorists. The Report of the Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, emphasized that today, our greatest nuclear threat is no longer a large-scale nuclear exchange, but the danger that terrorists could acquire nuclear materials or, worse, a nuclear weapon. The NPR further notes that, while our nuclear arsenal has little direct relevance in deterring this threat, concerted action by the United States and Russia – and indeed, from all nuclear weapon states – to further reduce their arsenals can assist in garnering worldwide support for strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The new threats of the 21st century require new thinking about our defense and diplomatic strategies.

With this in mind, the Obama Administration is reinvigorating efforts to control and reduce nuclear weapons. Shortly after taking office, President Obama delivered a landmark speech in Prague calling on us to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. During that speech, the President noted that some argue that the spread of nuclear weapons cannot be stopped. He called such fatalism a deadly adversary, because if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is also inevitable. We must do everything in our power to make sure that never happens.

The president outlined a number of concrete steps on the path toward a world without nuclear weapons. One step, the step that I was charged with, was to negotiate a new arms treaty with Russia – the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. I spent most of 2009 and the first part of 2010 with my Russian counterparts in Geneva, Switzerland doing just that.

This Treaty is very important because the United States and Russia control more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. When the New START Treaty is fully implemented, it will result in the lowest number of deployed nuclear warheads since the 1950s, the first full decade of the nuclear age. Further, the limits on deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, SLBMs, and heavy bombers that can carry nuclear weapons will be well below previous limits.

Negotiating New START

I would like to tell you a little bit about the experience negotiating this treaty.

Our work began following an April 2009 meeting between President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in London, where they agreed to launch negotiations toward a replacement treaty for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – START – a treaty signed by President George H.W. Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. That treaty expired on December 5th of last year.

In negotiating the New START Treaty, we embarked on a new and uncharted path, but one that was necessary for our two countries and the world community to travel. We knew that it was necessary to replace the expiring START Treaty with a new agreement reflecting progress in arms control and the changes in the world and in the U.S.–Russian relationship over the 20 years since START was negotiated.

What was notably different about our negotiations when compared to arms control negotiations of the past was the spirit in which they took place. As they began, Secretary Clinton had only just agreed with her Russian counterpart, Minister Sergei Lavrov, to hit the reset button on our relationship, moving us out of a difficult phase in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war. And there had been some tense periods even before that time.

The two delegations launched into the negotiations committed to conducting them in an atmosphere of mutual respect with a premium on keeping the tone businesslike and productive, even when we did not agree. My counterpart on the Russian delegation, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, always used to say, “business is business.” And what he meant was that we needed to keep the tone of the discussion businesslike even when we were butting heads – as we frequently did.

Over the course of the year-long negotiation we got to know our counterparts. Members of both delegations brought valuable experience to the table, having worked as inspectors under START. They had inspected each other’s ICBM bases, SLBM bases, heavy bomber bases, and storage facilities multiple times.

Another thing that really helped was that we spoke each other’s languages. I am very proud to say that there were probably as many Russian speakers on the U.S. delegation as there were English speakers on the Russian delegation.

Most heartening to me in terms of the future of our country’s arms control efforts and negotiations, were the number of young people who worked on both delegations. While most of the senior negotiators on our delegation were “Sputnik babies” like me, whose interest in Soviet studies was spawned by the 1957 launch of Sputnik and the ensuing race to the moon between the United States and the Soviet Union, there were members on both delegations who were born not too long before the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After a year of intense work, we reached a deal. On April 8, 2010, President Obama and President Medvedev signed the New START Treaty at a ceremony in Prague. President Obama called it an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation and for U.S.-Russian relations. President Medvedev declared it a win-win situation.

The New START Treaty enhances U.S. national security by stabilizing the strategic balance between the United States and the Russian Federation at lower levels of nuclear forces. It restores our window into the operations of Russia’s strategic forces that we lost when the previous START inspection regime expired last year. The New START Treaty preserves the United States’ right to determine our own force structure, giving us the flexibility to deploy and maintain our strategic nuclear forces in a way that best serves U.S. national security interests. This Treaty also represents a significant step forward in building a more stable, cooperative relationship with Russia.

But this Treaty is not just about Washington and Moscow. It advances the security of the entire world. By demonstrating that we are living up to our obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue disarmament, we enhance our ability to convince other governments to help strengthen the international nonproliferation regime and confront proliferators.

The strength of this new Treaty rests on the fact that we took into account the broad perspectives of the State Department, the Department of Defense, the uniformed military, the Department of Energy, and other agencies, from the very beginning and at every step throughout the negotiations.

We built on the strong foundations established by the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the START Treaty, and the Moscow Treaty. The negotiations were guided in large part by our many years of experience in implementing those treaties. The resulting New START Treaty combines concepts from START and the Moscow Treaty. It contains a strong and comprehensive verification regime that gives us confidence that the Treaty’s limits are being met and provides for predictability, as did the original START Treaty. But the Treaty also recognizes that we are no longer in a Cold War relationship, so it follows the Moscow Treaty model of permitting each Party to determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms.

The Treaty’s central limits, as you might already know, are: 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed heavy bombers; 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers; and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers.

Experienced inspectors and weapon system operators on both the U.S. and Russian negotiating delegations developed an inspection regime that retains many features from the START inspection regime, while implementing them in a more streamlined and cost-effective manner. The New START Treaty’s extensive provisions work together to assure the verification of the Party’s compliance, including notifications, data exchanges, on-site inspections, and national technical means of verification.

The new Treaty provides for an annual quota of 18 short-notice on-site inspections. The START Treaty allowed for 28 inspections, but at the time of entry into force of that Treaty, there were 70 inspectable facilities across the Soviet Union. Now, there are only 35 Russian strategic forces facilities. And, of course, the number of inspections without the New START Treaty in force is and will be zero.

With regard to ratification, we are making good progress. Since May 13th, when the White House transmitted the New START Treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), under the admirable, steady leadership of Senator John Kerry and Senator Richard Lugar, has held a series of intensive hearings ensuring a timely and thorough review of the Treaty. With additional work in other committees, the Senate has now held 18 hearings and three classified briefings on the New START Treaty.

The Administration received more than 900 questions for the record; we provided answers to every one of them so that the Senators have the information they need to give their advice and consent to the ratification of the New START Treaty. Senator Lugar has explained, this is “no longer a matter of parliamentary debate, it’s a matter of national security.” In fact, as of today, it’s been 290 days since we had boots on the ground, inspecting the Russian strategic forces.

As I mentioned earlier, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution for ratification of the New START Treaty, and we are very pleased that it did so with strong bipartisan support. We are confident that bipartisan support for this treaty will only grow in the coming weeks and look forward to the full Senate providing its advice and consent to ratification as soon as possible.

Some in the media and elsewhere point to partisan struggle over New START Treaty, but I have seen broad, bipartisan support for this treaty, as has traditionally been the case for arms control treaties. The INF Treaty, negotiated by President Reagan, was approved in 1988, by a vote of 93-5. The START Treaty, negotiated by President George H.W. Bush, was approved in 1991 by 93 votes to 6. The Moscow Treaty, negotiated by President George W. Bush, was approved by a 95 to 0 vote. We hope the New START Treaty will receive a similar treatment.

Numerous administration officials, former government and military leaders, and representatives of non-governmental organizations have testified in support of the Treaty. Democratic and Republican leaders like George Shultz, James Baker, Sam Nunn, James Schlesinger, Bill Perry, Chuck Hagel, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Howard Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and Stephen Hadley all encourage ratification.

Support for this treaty is not just inside the Washington beltway. Countless civic and religious leaders around the country have taken an interest, as well. Among the faith based communities, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the World Evangelical Alliance, the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist bishops and the Two Futures Project, among other groups have all voiced support for the New START Treaty. The Archbishop of Baltimore, Edwin O’Brien, has called the Treaty “a moral imperative” and a necessary step toward the eventual goal of total nuclear disarmament. As both the New START Treaty’s Chief Negotiator and a Catholic, I absolutely agree. This agreement gives the United States of America the opportunity to move into a future that is not haunted by the existential threat of impending nuclear war.

The Prague Agenda

That brings me back to the overarching nuclear security agenda and President Obama’s bold vision of a world without nuclear weapons. This is a vision that has been shared by many Presidents, extending all the way back to President Harry Truman.

Almost a year to the day before President Obama and President Medvedev signed the New START Treaty; President Obama spoke in Prague, setting forth a specific agenda to address the challenges posed by the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons. He undertook to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how hard it might be or how long it might take. Referring to those remarks, President Obama at the signing ceremony for the New START Treaty said: “this is a long-term goal, one that may not even be achieved in my lifetime. But I believed then, as I do now, that the pursuit of that goal will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, and make the United States, and the world, safer and more secure.”

As long as nuclear weapons exist, the President has affirmed that the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies. This Administration has put forth a budget for the nuclear weapons complex that reflects this fact.

Beginning with the New START Treaty, we are setting the stage for further arms reductions. For example, the Treaty’s preamble notes the goal of the United States and Russia to provide new impetus to the step-by-step process of reducing nuclear arms with a view to expanding this process in the future to other countries. Future plans include discussion on further reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons, as well as non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons, and pursuit of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In addition, the Administration will continue building on the significant progress of the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington last April, where President Obama worked with 47 other world leaders on steps to secure all enriched uranium and separated plutonium – the materials essential for building nuclear weapons – within the next four years. We are also continuing to develop a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, so that countries can have access to peaceful nuclear power without increasing the risks of proliferation.

This agenda is ambitious and requires enormous efforts. But it is work in which we must engage. As Pope Benedict XVI has said, “In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.” We do not have to live in that world. We do not have to live in a world where there is even one more nuclear-armed country or the possibility of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons.


You may not believe me, but I did not come here to recruit you as the next arms control negotiators, although it would be laudable if some of you chose this field. In fact, I highly recommend it as an exciting and meaningful career path. I am most eager to make sure that people remember that nuclear weapons or the material to make these weapons exist in nations throughout the globe. As hard as my colleagues and I are working, you will undoubtedly be left with thousands of nuclear weapons in the world. You did not ask for this deadly inheritance and you did not contribute to the problems that led to its creation. You cannot change the past that brought us to this point, but you can change the future.

This New START Treaty is the next important step in what is a long-standing step-by-step process of reducing and limiting nuclear arms. This step-by-step process ensures that strategic stability is maintained as weapons numbers are lowered. The New START Treaty is vital to ensuring transparency and stability between the two largest nuclear powers in the world and to advancing international security and stability. New START, quite simply, is in the best national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners around the world. As the venerable Reverend Hesburgh, President Emeritus of this fine institution, warned about the threat of nuclear proliferation: “the world's other problems become meaningless if we don't solve this one -and do it quickly.”

Thank you.

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