How does New START make America safer?

First, the agreement provides for predictability, transparency and stability in the U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship. Former National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton Brooks put it best when he said, “Transparency leads to predictability; predictability leads to stability.” The opportunity to examine Russian nuclear forces helps to limit the surprises, mistrust or miscalculation that could result from a lack of information. By building trust with regard to our respective nuclear arsenals, progress on other important issues like Afghanistan and Iran becomes more likely. 

Second, the New START agreement is a clear demonstration that the United States is upholding our disarmament obligations under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which can help to secure assistance from other countries on other non-proliferation issues such as combating nuclear terrorism.

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We have heard criticism from some quarters on New START — some of which is not grounded in reality. Here are the facts:

First, this treaty in no way limits missile defense. General Kevin Chilton, commander of STRATCOM, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on April 14 and said, “There is no restriction in START with regard to our missile defense capability.” He also said, “Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program.”

Now, as was done following the first START agreement, the Russians have issued a unilateral statement regarding missile defense. I was not surprised by that. This document is not part of the treaty and therefore not subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The administration has also issued a unilateral statement that said nothing in the treaty would limit U.S. efforts to develop current or future missile defense systems. At the signing of the first START, the Soviet Union issued a similar statement with respect to missile defense. When the U.S. withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002, Russia did not withdraw from the original START.

Second, a reduction in nuclear arms will not leave the United States more vulnerable. In fact, the administration has taken extraordinary steps to ensure we strengthen the capabilities of our existing stockpile to ensure our nuclear weapons infrastructure is second to none. The president has repeatedly said, “As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal.”  

This president believes in modernization. He has backed up this commitment with a projected investment of $85 billion in our existing arsenal over the next 10 years. I hope that those who have expressed concern about the safety, security and effectiveness of the arsenal will join us in an effort to ensure the president’s budget is protected in future appropriations.  

Some have contended New START is being rushed, when compared to past ratification efforts. I will not dispute that there is a sense of urgency. Nearly a year has passed since the expiration of the first START, and every other day is another in which there are no American inspectors with eyes on the Russian arsenal. After more than 20 hearings by the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence and exhaustive deliberation, the time has come for this Senate to vote on New START. Our national security cannot afford more unnecessary delay.

Sen. Casey is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.