Kerry Says Arms Reduction Treaty Creates Openness, Lessens Risk

Secretary Kerry says the arms control treaty known as New START is a common-sense approach to reducing the nuclear weapons threat.
Secretary Kerry says the arms control treaty known as New START is a common-sense approach to reducing the nuclear weapons threat.

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
29 October 2013

A nuclear disarmament treaty signed by the United States and Russia three years ago is a practical, common-sense approach that is needed to address the nuclear weapons threat, says Secretary of State John Kerry, and it creates an openness not seen before in arms reduction efforts.

It’s not radical, and it’s not ideological, but it works, Kerry said of the arms reduction treaty known as New START. The treaty reduces the number of nuclear warheads to its lowest level since the early 1950s.

“It increases transparency, and it gives us much greater visibility into Russia’s nuclear activities, and they to us, which helps build confidence and actually reduces risk,” Kerry said October 28 during an evening address at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “It ensures that a strong nuclear deterrent remains the cornerstone of U.S. national security and that of our allies and our partners.”

The New START is a critical centerpiece for the president’s foreign policy program and reflects his broader view of a world without nuclear weapons and the destructive threat they pose, Kerry said. The treaty was signed by President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8, 2010, in Prague and ratified by the U.S. Senate in December of that year. Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to foster global arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

Devising solutions and answering the question that asks “What will make the world safer?” is no longer just the responsibility of the nuclear superpowers as it was during the Cold War era, or the United States alone, Kerry said. It is the responsibility of all states, Kerry said, because they can and must contribute to the conditions for disarmament and nonproliferation.

“Peace will be, as President Kennedy said, the product of many nations, the sum of many acts,” Kerry said.

Kerry said the president also sees the need for a related accomplishment: ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear explosions in all environments whether military or civilian. The United States has signed the treaty, but has not ratified it. Kerry said there is a need for more nonpartisanship, more education and more advocacy to finally bring approval of the CTBT to ratification.

“Today we can maintain a safe and secure and effective arsenal without resorting to explosive testing. In a way we couldn’t 14 years ago — we didn’t know how — today we have a much more advanced monitoring capacity that will ensure that the treaty is, in fact, verifiable and reliable,” Kerry said, responding to critics who had argued against ratification, saying that the CTBT could not be verified or enforced.

There are those who have questioned the twin U.S. strategies of disarmament and nonproliferation, Kerry said, arguing that it is an inconsistent security strategy that weakens the United States and weakens the deterrent value of maintaining a nuclear arsenal. “But the simple truth remains that while our ability to deter our adversaries and protect our allies will never be compromised, as President Obama has made clear, we have more nuclear weapons today than we need to meet that standard,” he added.

The New START, which replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), requires the United States and Russia to limit strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 for each country, which is down from the current limit of 2,200 warheads, and 700 launchers. The treaty also requires on-site verification inspections, which had lapsed in December 2009 when START expired.

The treaty gives the United States and Russia seven years to reduce forces and remains in force for 10 years from ratification, and it contains detailed definitions and counting rules that will help the parties calculate the number of warheads that count under the treaty limits. Additionally, the treaty provides for detailed and regular, mutual on-site inspections of each’s nuclear arsenals to assure compliance and implementation of the immense technical aspects of nuclear arms reduction programs.

The first START in 1991 took the number of deployed nuclear weapons down from about 12,000 warheads on each side to about 6,000, then the Moscow Treaty in 2002 reduced that number to a range of 1,700 to 2,200.

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