Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is confident the Senate will President Obama's strategic nuclear treaty with Russia shortly after the August congressional recess, she said Wednesday morning.
Following a meeting with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA, she said the administration had reassured skeptical senators about their concerns over what the treaty means for missile defense, investment in "nuclear modernization," and verification.
"This treaty in no way will constrain our ability to modernize our nuclear enterprise or develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses for the sake of our security and for our allies and friends," she said.
She also touted the administration's $80 billion proposal for modernizing the nuclear weapons complex, a huge increase in such funding but short of what some GOP senators are calling for.
Clinton took a page from the book of committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, who said last week that the quick ratification of the treaty, known as New START, is a national-security imperative because all monitoring of Russian nuclear activities stopped when the last treaty expired last December.
"There is an urgency to ratify this treaty because we currently lack verification measures with Russia, which only hurts our national security interests," she said. "Our ability to know and understand changes in Russia's nuclear arsenal will erode without the treaty. As time passes, uncertainty will only increase. Ratifying the New START treaty will prevent that outcome."
Although Clinton said all of the senators' questions were being answered, one sticking point is likely to remain even after the recess ends. Several GOP senators are demanding the administration give them the entire negotiating record for New START. The administration has provided a summary, but has indicated several times that it has no intention of handing over the full record.
The administration argues that even though negotiating records have been provided in the past in certain cases, doing so hurts their ability to hold private negotiations with foreign governments in the future.
"It is surprising to see so many former senators in an administration who believe the Senate is a rubber stamp," one senior GOP aide told The Cable. "Until the administration sends up the negotiating record, it is clear that we have not yet reached the end of the beginning of this process."
Kerry has promised a committee vote on the treaty will be held Sept. 15 or 16.
Clinton's full remarks after the jump:
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
STATEMENT ON START TREATY STATUS
AUGUST 11, 2010
Good morning. I am pleased to be here with Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller and Assistant Secretary Rich Verma to update you on the START ratification process.
Next month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will bring the new START treaty one step closer to ratification. Last week I was pleased to meet with Senator Kerry to discuss the committee's schedule for consideration of the treaty on September 15th or 16th and in the full Senate soon after. The chairman and Senator Lugar have constructed a good plan, and I am confident about the prospects for ratification.
In the weeks and months since the treaty was submitted to the Senate, it has earned bipartisan support from senators on both sides of the aisle as well as statesmen in and out of government - from both parties. They understand that once the new START treaty is ratified and enters into force, it will advance our national security and provide stability and predictability between the world's two leading nuclear powers.
We have worked closely with the Senate throughout this process. We welcomed senators to Geneva to observe the negotiations. The Senate has held 18 hearings, along with three classified briefings on the treaty. In the wake of the hearings, we are providing them with answers to nearly 800 questions.
There is a lot of material for senators to review during this break, and we are working to resolve any outstanding questions they might have. We have already addressed several key issues, reassuring those who had had questions on such issues as missile defense, investment in the nuclear complex, and verification.
This treaty will verifiably limit the strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States and will establish equal limits on both countries' strategic warheads, delivery vehicles, and launchers.
This treaty will provide for inspections we would not otherwise be able to make. For 15 years, START provided us access to monitor and inspect Russia's nuclear arsenal. START, as you know, expired last December. It has been more than eight months since we have had inspectors on the ground in Russia. This is a critical point. Opposing ratification means opposing the inspections that provide a vital window into Russia's arsenal.
This treaty in no way will constrain our ability to modernize our nuclear enterprise or develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses for the sake of our security and for our allies and friends.
With respect to our nation's nuclear complex, Secretary of Energy Chu, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Tom D'Agostino, and the directors of our nation's three national laboratories have all testified that nothing in the treaty will affect our ability to modernize our nuclear complex and maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.
In fact, the President's budget request for the next fiscal year represents a 13 percent increase for weapons activities and infrastructure. Over the next decade we are asking for an $80 billion investment in our nuclear security enterprise. Linton Brooks, the head of President Bush's national security complex, has applauded our budget and commitment to nuclear modernization.
And seven former commanders of U.S. nuclear strategic planning have endorsed the New START treaty and recommended early approval by the U.S. Senate.
President Bush began this process more than two years ago with broad, bipartisan agreement that a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was imperative for the peace and security of our world. The Obama administration has followed through with painstaking negotiations to finalize an agreement that lives up to this high standard and makes concrete steps to reduce the threat of strategic arms.
This treaty is another step in the process of bilateral nuclear reductions initiated by President Reagan and supported overwhelmingly by both Republican and Democratic Presidents alike. And in every instance, the Senate has ratified such treaties with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The chairman's decision to give members of both sides of the aisle additional time to review the underlying materials, but set a committee vote for the middle of September, is a gesture of good faith and underscores the tradition of bipartisan support.
But when the Senate returns, they must act, because our national security is at risk. There is an urgency to ratify this treaty because we currently lack verification measures with Russia, which only hurts our national security interests. Our ability to know and understand changes in Russia's nuclear arsenal will erode without the treaty. As time passes, uncertainty will only increase. Ratifying the New START treaty will prevent that outcome.
So next month I look forward to working with members of the Senate, especially Senators Kerry and Lugar, to move the treaty out of committee and on to consideration by the full Senate.