New START Approval a Victory for Commonsense, Pragmatic Approaches to Reducing Nuclear Weapons Dangers

Statement of Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director,

Arms Control Association, December 22, 2010

Today's Senate vote to approve ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is a victory for common sense arms control solutions to reduce the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

With the 71-26 vote, a bipartisan coalition of senators recognized that U.S. and international security is stronger when the United States takes the lead to reduce the size of world's two largest nuclear arsenals and to limit the ability of other states to improve their nuclear capabilities.

The strong vote for New START is remarkable in this time of hyper-partisanship. As Senator John Kerry noted about this Senate: "70 is the new 95." Senators Kerry and Lugar, along with President Obama and Vice-president Biden pursued a smart, patient plan to consult with and take Republican concerns about the treaty into account and, as a result, New START is truly a success for the nation.

New START won the Senate's support because it makes sense: it is effectively verifiable, and it will build international cooperation to help secure vulnerable nuclear material and to turn Iran and North Korea away from nuclear weapons. The treaty has the overwhelming support of the American people, the U.S. military, and Republican and Democratic national security experts alike.

New START is a strong start: the United States and Russia must continue to work to reduce their huge strategic nuclear stockpiles, phase out their Cold War-style targeting plans, tackle the problem of accounting for and reducing tactical nuclear weapons and, as President Obama has said, engage the other nuclear-armed states in a dialogue on nuclear disarmament.

Further reductions should be secured through a follow-on treaty, or, in the interim, through unilateral reciprocal reductions. Whatever the formula, it is clear that there is still more to be done. In the 21st Century, nuclear weapons are a greater liability than an asset. They are useless in deterring or responding to nuclear terrorism. In the coming months, the United States and Russia should discuss reducing their arsenals to 1,000 or fewer nuclear weapons of all types, and restrict their role solely to deterring nuclear attack by others.

Not only must the United States and Russia further reduce their arsenals, but they must work to prevent other states from building up and improving their nuclear arsenals. In particular, the United States needs to work harder to head off arms buildups elsewhere. To do so, the U.S. needs to lead a renewed effort for a global ban on fissile material production for weapons and we need to solidify the global ban on nuclear testing by ratifying the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The New START vote suggests it is possible for the Senate to reconsider and come together around the CTBT. The case for the test ban treaty is even stronger than it was when the Senate last reviewed the treaty a decade ago. It is clear that the United States no longer needs or wants nuclear testing and that further nuclear testing could help others improve their nuclear capabilities.

The robust, $85 billion, 10-year plan for upgrading the nuclear weapons complex should give Senators greater confidence that nuclear testing is no longer needed to maintain the effectiveness of the U.S. arsenal. Senators of both parties should recognize that delaying reconsideration of the Test Ban Treaty will create uncertainty about U.S. nuclear policy and jeopardize the fragile political consensus to increase funding to maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the years ahead.

Senate approval of New START demonstrates that the American people expect their leaders to take action to reduce the nuclear weapons threat. New START has had the active support of a very large, diverse, bipartisan array of national security, arms control, religious, scientific, and environmental organizations.

New START advocates include a range of supporters from the Air Force Association to the Arms Control Association, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the National Assn. of Evangelicals, from retired generals to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, plus a long list of former Secretaries of State, former Secretaries of Defense, former national security advisers, former presidents, and all major U.S. allies urging approval of the treaty this year. Newspapers in red, blue, and purple states have editorialized overwhelmingly in favor of prompt Senate ratification New START.

The clear message is that doing nothing, or delaying action on pragmatic nuclear risk reduction steps, is not a prudent option.

We welcome the Senate's strong vote of support for New START and look forward to further progress in reducing the nuclear threat and increasing U.S. security in the months and years ahead.

For more background and analysis on further steps to reduce the nuclear threat, see:

"After New START: What Next?" by Stephen Pifer, Brooking Institution in Arms Control Today, December 2010. See:

"NATO's Nuclear Decision," by Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Today, September, 2010. See:

The Case for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, An Arms Control Association Report by Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball, February 2010. See:

"Time for Leadership on the Fissile Cutoff," Arms Control Today, by Daryl G. Kimball, October 2010. See:

"Presidential Q & A: President-Elect Barack Obama," Arms Control Today, December 2008. See: