Unlike the nuclear threats of the last century, today’s nightmares are a nuclear terrorist attack on an American city, or an increasing number of states acquiring nuclear weapons. A 21st century national security strategy must ensure our military is able to combat the adversaries we face today. Maintaining a nuclear weapons stockpile designed to fight Cold War enemies is an outmoded defense strategy that diverts critical resources from the tools our men and women in uniform need to counter today’s threats and keep us safe.
It is in American security interests to secure a Russian nuclear arsenal that is too often poorly guarded, increasing the terrifying risk that catastrophic nuclear materials will fall into the wrong hands. Together the U.S. and Russia possess some 20,000 nuclear weapons, 95 percent of all those in the world. U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions – combined with other measures to eliminate Russian delivery systems and vulnerable weapons-grade nuclear material – is a necessary first step to gain the international cooperation needed to prevent nuclear terrorism or new nuclear states. The agreement will provide verifiable reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, ensure that those remaining are secure, and prevent their use or the risk of them falling into the hands of terrorists or our adversaries. We call on the U.S. Senate to ratify the New START Treaty.
The New START agreement is the centerpiece in the continuing effort to shift our focus from the outdated weapons of the Cold War to the tools our troops need in today’s battlefield. In the late 1980s, during the Administration of President Ronald Reagan, the United States and Soviet Union began negotiations to reduce Cold War nuclear arsenals. These discussions led to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed by President George H.W. Bush, and entered into force in December 1994. START limited the number of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles each country could deploy to 6,000 and 1,600, respectively. The treaty also created a comprehensive set of verification procedures, including detailed declarations and intrusive inspections, to ensure compliance with the treaty. By 2001, both countries fulfilled the terms of the agreement and each of the three former Soviet satellite states that housed some of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear stockpile– Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine – eliminated its arsenal and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear nation.
On April 8, 2010, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the landmark New START agreement, agreeing to reduce U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each – and their strategic delivery vehicles to 600 each – limits that are significantly lower than those of the previous treaty.