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The New START Treaty and the CTBT: Two Essential Steps Toward Fulfilling the Prague Agenda
September 27, 2011

Remarks by Ellen Tauscher
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
Washington, DC
September 19, 2011


(As Prepared)

Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here with so many successful, motivated, and patriotic women dedicated to making our nation safer and the world more peaceful.

I want to thank Representative Camper for the great introduction. More importantly, I want to thank her for being a strong supporter of the New START Treaty. By speaking out and advocating for the treaty, she helped deliver two very important Republican votes for the Treaty: Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

For treaties in the Senate you need a two-thirds vote for approval. So we had to get 67 votes and we got 71. As Senator Kerry remarked, in today’s political climate, “70 votes is yesterday’s 95.”

I also want to thank WAND for all the superb work it has done to empower women to be effective lawmakers and influential citizens. WAND has helped galvanize women on national security issues, like the New START Treaty.

President Obama is committed to a more peaceful world by seeking a world free of nuclear weapons. He cautioned that achieving that goal will take patience and persistence. But in setting the destination, President Obama also mapped out the concrete steps we can take to get there, making the journey far less daunting.

He set out four general guideposts: progress on disarmament, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, preventing nuclear terrorism, and promoting safe and secure nuclear power.

If we follow all of them, we are likely to get where we are going. If we ignore some of them, we risk getting off track.

Reducing existing arsenals bolsters efforts to prevent additional states from getting nuclear weapons. Smaller arsenals and fewer states with nuclear weapons lessen the likelihood of nuclear terrorism. Transparent, safe nuclear power does as well.

In contrast, if we neglect disarmament or ensuring high standards for safe nuclear power, the risks increase of nuclear terrorism and proliferation. And if additional states get nuclear weapons, those states with nuclear weapons will be less likely to disarm.

The interrelationship of all these issues is why the Prague Agenda set out by the President is not a menu where you pick and choose, but a roadmap with concrete steps.

I’ve been asked to speak about two specific steps related to disarmament and nonproliferation: the New START Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The first is a success story in the making, while the second seems like a never-ending story. But this Administration and I are determined to see it through to a happy ending. With your support, we will.

Two years ago in Prague, President Obama said the United States—as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon—had a moral responsibility to act to reduce nuclear dangers.

We have done so.

We issued a Nuclear Posture Review that reduces the role of nuclear weapons in our overall defense posture. The review declared the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the United States and our allies and partners. The longer term goal is to create the conditions to safely make that the sole purpose of our nuclear forces.

We also answered that call for leadership by negotiating and ratifying the New START Treaty with Russia.

The United States and Russia are the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals. The New START Treaty will obligate us to reduce our deployed strategic nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.

Since the Treaty entered into force in February, we have been busy implementing it in a very pragmatic, professional, and positive way. The United States and Russia have exchanged data, held exhibitions, and notified each other on the status of our strategic forces. Indeed, we have exchanged more than 1,300 notifications.

And we are conducting on-site inspections. To date, the United States has conducted 10 inspections in Russia, while Russia has conducted 9 inspections in the United States. Without the New START Treaty, our inspectors would not have been able to put their boots on the ground at Russian weapons bases.

The access and information provided by the New START Treaty enhances predictability and stability in the U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship. The risks of miscalculation, misunderstanding, and mistrust would be significantly greater without the New START Treaty.

As we implement New START, we are preparing for further nuclear reduction negotiations with Russia and, eventually, other countries. Our overall objective with Russia is to seek future reductions in all categories of nuclear weapons: strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed.

Under the President’s direction, the U.S. Government is reviewing our nuclear requirements. The Departments of Defense and State and other agencies will consider what forces the United States needs to maintain strategic stability and deterrence. Potential changes in targeting requirements and alert postures will be evaluated.

As we consider further reductions, we are making the investments to ensure the United States will retain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal so long as nuclear weapons exist. Our intention over the next 10 years is to invest $88 billion in the nation’s nuclear infrastructure.

It may seem counterintuitive, but these investments will allow greater reductions because the same infrastructure is used to eliminate warheads. And with greater confidence and capability in our infrastructure and people, we will not have to keep so many warheads in reserve.

A healthy and robust infrastructure also means we do not have to test nuclear weapons, which is something that we have not done since 1992. Despite abiding by the CTBT’s main obligation—not testing—for nearly 20 years, the CTBT remains politically controversial.

Our goal going forward is to leave the politics aside and explain to the Senate and the public why the CTBT will enhance our national security. This is something that I hope all of you can help us do.

Our case for Treaty ratification consists of three primary arguments.

One, the United States no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosive tests.

Two, a CTBT that has entered into force will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests.

And three, we now have a greater ability to detect testing, a capability that will be enhanced by the CTBT, including its monitoring system and inspection provisions.

Let me take these points one by one.

From 1945 to 1992, the United States conducted more than 1,000 nuclear explosive tests – more than all other nations combined. The cumulative data gathered from these tests have provided an impressive foundation of knowledge for us to base the continuing effectiveness of our arsenal. But historical test data alone is insufficient.

Well over a decade ago, we launched an extensive and rigorous Stockpile Stewardship program that has enabled our nuclear weapons laboratories to carry out essential surveillance and warhead life extensions.

Every year for the past 15 years, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy from both Democratic and Republican Administrations, and the directors of the nuclear weapons laboratories have certified that our arsenal is safe, secure, and effective. And each year they have affirmed that we do not need to conduct explosive nuclear tests.

The lab directors tell us that Stockpile Stewardship has provided a deeper understanding of our arsenal than they ever had when testing was commonplace. We know more now about our nuclear weapons than when we used explosive testing. Think about that for a moment.

Our current efforts go a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the labs to anticipate problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal—something that nuclear testing could not do. I, for one, would not trade our successful approach based on world-class science and technology for a return to explosive testing.

Despite the narrative put forward by some, this Administration inherited an underfunded and underappreciated nuclear complex. We have worked tirelessly to fix that situation and ensure our complex has every asset needed to achieve its mission, and to do it without explosive testing.

The President has committed to programs that we believe require an investment of $88 billion in funding over the next decade. These investments will help maintain a modern nuclear arsenal, retain a modern nuclear weapons production complex, and nurture a highly trained workforce. At a time when every part of the budget is under the microscope, our pledge to pursue these programs demonstrates our commitment and should not be discounted. To those who doubt our commitment, I ask them to put their doubts aside and invest the hard work to support our budget requests in the Congress.

I do not believe that even the most vocal critics of the CTBT want to resume explosive nuclear testing. What they have chosen instead is a status quo where the United States refrains from testing without using that fact to lock in a legally binding global ban that would significantly benefit the United States.

Second, a CTBT that has entered into force will hinder other states from advancing their nuclear weapons capabilities. Were the CTBT to enter into force, states interested in pursuing or advancing a nuclear weapons program would risk either deploying weapons that might not work or incur international condemnation and sanctions for testing.

While states can build a crude first generation nuclear weapon without conducting nuclear explosive tests, they would have trouble going further with any confidence. Without explosive testing, more established nuclear weapons states seeking to deploy advanced nuclear weapon capabilities that deviated significantly from previously tested designs also would have serious doubts about reliability.

Finally, we have become very good at detecting explosive testing. If you test, there is a very high risk of getting caught. Upon the Treaty’s entry into force, the United States would use the International Monitoring System (IMS) to complement our own state of the art national technical means to verify the Treaty.

In 1999 when the Senate first considered the CTBT, not a single certified IMS station or facility existed. We understand why some senators had doubts about its future, untested capabilities. But today the IMS is nearing completion. 286 of 337 monitoring facilities have been installed. They work and provide valuable data all day, every day.

While IMS capabilities continue to grow, our national technical means remain second to none and we continue to improve them. Taken together, these verification tools would make it difficult for any state to conduct nuclear tests that escape detection.

We have a strong case for CTBT ratification. We look forward to objective voices providing their opinions on this important issue.

Soon, the National Academy of Sciences, a trusted and unbiased voice on scientific issues, will release an unclassified report examining the Treaty from a technical perspective. The report will look at how U.S. ratification would impact our ability to maintain our nuclear arsenal and our ability to detect and verify explosive nuclear tests.

Let me conclude by saying that successful U.S. ratification of the CTBT will help facilitate greater international cooperation on the other elements of the President’s Prague Agenda. It will strengthen our leverage with the international community to pressure defiant regimes like those in Iran and North Korea as they engage in illicit nuclear activities. We will have greater credibility when encouraging other states to pursue and enforce nonproliferation objectives.

In short, ratification helps us get more of what we want. We give up nothing by ratifying the CTBT. We recognize that a Senate debate over ratification will be spirited, vigorous, and likely contentious.

The debate in 1999, unfortunately, was too short and too politicized. The Treaty was brought to the floor without the benefit of extensive Committee hearings or significant input from Administration officials and outside experts.

We will not repeat those mistakes. We are committed to taking a bipartisan and fact-based approach with the Senate.

For Republicans who voted against the Treaty in 1999 and might feel bound by that vote, we have one message: Don’t be. The times have changed. Stockpile Stewardship works. We have made significant advances in our ability to detect nuclear testing.

As my good friend George Shultz likes to say, those who opposed the Treaty in 1999 can say they were right, but they would be right to vote for the Treaty today.

A nuclear test ban has been sought for more than 50 years.

President Obama has said that the elimination of nuclear weapons might not happen in his lifetime.

Progress on nuclear issues often seems agonizingly slow.

But we cannot and must not shy away from the task of adjusting our nuclear policies to 21st century realities just because it is difficult. As President Obama said, we will get there with your persistence.

Thank you. I am happy to answer any questions.