Senate confirms nuclear commander

Senate confirms nuclear commander
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The Senate has confirmed President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE’s nominee to lead the U.S. military command in charge of nuclear weapons.

The Senate confirmed Vice Adm. Charles Richard to be commander of U.S. Strategic Command by unanimous consent Thursday night as part of a batch of military nominees. Richard will also be promoted to a four-star admiral as part of the confirmation.

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Richard will replace Gen. John Hyten, who was confirmed as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after an extended confirmation process that included an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. Hyten has denied the allegations, and an Air Force investigation did not find corroborating evidence to charge him.

Richard has served as commander of Submarine Forces, Submarine Force Atlantic and Allied Submarine Command since August 2018. He previously served as deputy commander of Strategic Command.

His confirmation comes just a week after his hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

At the hearing, Richard was pressed on two treaties that are said to be on Trump’s chopping block.

Richard would not say whether he thinks the United States should leave the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) or Open Skies Treaty. He pledged to give the president his “best military advice” and listed several pros and cons with each agreement.

“I will support any arms control or other treaty that enhances the security of this nation,” Richard said generally when asked about both treaties.

New START, negotiated by the Obama administration, caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can have at 1,550 each.

New START is up for renewal in 2021. The Trump administration has indicated it wants to expand the scope of the treaty as a condition of extension, by taking steps such as folding in China and other weapons not currently covered by the agreement.

Supporters of New START say the Trump administration’s conditions are poison pills meant to kill the treaty. 

The Open Skies Treaty, meanwhile, allows the pact’s 34 signatories to fly unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of other signatories. The intention is to increase transparency and reduce the risk of military miscalculation. Republicans have accused Russia of violating the treaty by blocking flights over some of its territory.

Trump reportedly signed a document signaling his intent to withdraw from Open Skies at the urging of former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonFive bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony Chris Wallace: Sondland testimony 'took out the bus and ran over' Trump, top aides Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption MORE just before he left the administration.