News Alert: Former Defense Secretary Endorses New START Nuclear Reductions Treaty

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By The Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger has endorsed ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty.


In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee along with former Secretary of Defense William Perry, Schlesinger said, “It is obligatory for the U.S. to ratify this treaty,” while acknowledging that this treaty and all treaties have shortcomings.


Schlesinger also agreed with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who identified that, “failure to ratify New START is detrimental to U.S. influence over other countries’ non-proliferation policies.”


“The Secretary’s endorsement for New START is a major breakthrough for its prospects for Senate approval, since at least eight Republican votes will be needed for advice and consent to ratify the treaty,” said John Isaacs, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.


“Schlesinger is extremely influential within the Republican Party for his extensive experience and forceful positions on nuclear issues.”


Schlesinger made several other statements that will help the treaty’s prospects for ratification. While he acknowledged that there is less verification in this treaty than in START I, which was signed in 1991, he argued that, “all in all, verification possibilities are still adequate.”


He identified that there though missile defense is mentioned in the treaty preamble and the treaty itself, “the treaty does not limit U.S. missile defense in a serious way.”


In response to a question from Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-GA, both Schlesinger and Perry agreed that New START had to be ratified as a precursor for dealing with the issue of tactical nuclear weapons, where the Russians have a significant advantage.


Schlesinger even went so far as to soften some treaty criticism in his prepared statement, which stated: “As to the stated context of strategic nuclear weapons, the numbers specified are adequate,” and he then added, “at the reduced level,” a change from “though barely so” wording in his prepared text.


He endorsed the Obama administration’s new nuclear weapons budget for Fiscal Year 2011 when he said, “the add-on for next year looks to be significant.”


Editor’s note: All Schlesinger quotes and statements are taken from John Isaacs’ notes, rather than from a transcript, and may not be exact.