NebraskaState Senators Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer joined 22 of their Senatecolleagues in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern overefforts to further reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
Thestockpile has served as an effective deterrent since World War II.
Thesenators lay out several concerns, including Russia's questionable compliancerecord with past arms control agreements as well as the need for greatertransparency surrounding the Administration's ongoing discussions with Moscowabout further reductions.
Theletter also requests a commitment from Kerry that any nuclear reductions arecarried out through the regular treaty process with Senate ratification, notthrough unilateral executive actions.
Johannsis a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction andFischer is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Asigned copy of the letter can be viewed here.
Thefollowing is a transcription of the letter sent to Sec. of State John Kerry:
Dear Secretary Kerry:
We write in response to President Obama's speech inBerlin announcing his willingness to reduce U.S. deployed strategic nuclearweapons by up to one third.
As the Senate considers the nominations of severalsenior State Department officials who will oversee U.S. arms control policy andstrategic discussions with the Russians, especially that of Rose Gottemoellerto be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, wewish to outline our concerns and express our interest in working with theadministration to limit the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to keepAmericans safe.
The first issue we will be watching closely as theSenate considers these nominations relates to Russia's compliance with its armscontrol commitments to the United States. Specifically, we will seekassurances from the administration that Russia is in compliance with itsnuclear arms control agreements and obligations, including theIntermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives(PNIs) agreed to by President George H.W. Bush and President Boris Yeltsin, andits Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty obligations as the United Statesdefines those obligations. We note the recent amendment adopted by theHouse Armed Services Committee which states that Russia is "in active noncompliancewith existing nuclear arms obligations."
Earlier this year, all Republican members of the SSCIsent you a classified letter on these very issues. The fact that the responsedid not address many of the issues raised in the letter, combined with the factthat the annual compliance report is already several months past-due calls intoquestion just how seriously the administration takes the issue of verificationand enforcement of existing agreements. We agree with President Obama'sstatement that "[r]ules must be binding. Violations must bepunished. Words must mean something" and look forward to receivingadditional information from you that this is the case when it comes to Russia'strack record on its multilateral and bilateral arms control commitments.
A second issue that we are closely following is theadministration's reported plans to carry out further nuclear reductions. In his speech in Berlin, President Obama said the administration would "seeknegotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures." Pressreports in recent months have highlighted recent meetings between seniorAmerican and Russian officials about this issue and referenced exchanges ofproposals.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obamapromised that he would seek "to foster better executive-legislative relationsand bipartisan unity on foreign policy." In the spirit of that promise ofcooperation and your own recent expressed interest in fostering bipartisancooperation on arms control, we request a copy of the President's letter toPresident Putin and the recently received Russian response.
It is our view that any further reductions in the U.S.nuclear arsenal should only be conducted through a treaty subject to the adviceand consent of the Senate. This view is consistent with past practice andhas broad bipartisan support, as you know from your service in theSenate. Indeed, then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations CommitteeJoseph R. Biden, Jr. and then-Ranking Member Jesse Helms, in a March 2002 toletter to Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that "With the exception ofthe SALT I agreement, every significant arms control agreement during the pastthree decades has been transmitted pursuant to the Treaty Clause of theConstitution...we see no reason whatsoever to alter this practice."
As you will recall, in its resolution of ratificationof the New START agreement, the Senate stated that "further arms reductionagreements obligating the United States to reduce or limit the Armed Forces orarmaments of the United States in any military significant manner may be madeonly pursuant to the treaty-making power of the President as set forth inArticle II, section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution of the UnitedStates." We agree with both of these interpretations of the Senate's rolein providing advice and consent to such agreements.
Former Secretary of Defense Panetta endorsed this viewin testimony to Congress on February 15, 2012: "reductions that have been made,at least in this Administration, have only been made as part of the STARTprocess and not outside of that process; and I would expect that that would bethe same in the future." We thus request that you pledge to us that anyfurther nuclear reductions would be carried out only as part of a treaty to besubmitted for ratification by the Senate.
We appreciate the administration's expressed interestin restoring bipartisanship to arms control and believe that your answering ofthese questions and provision of this information will aid that effort andensure adequate consultation with the Senate as your discussions with Russiaproceed. We look forward to your quick response so that the Senate mayact on the relevant nominees pending confirmation.