The Status Of The New START Treaty
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Ellen Tauscher is undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She's been involved in pushing for ratification of New START. Welcome to the program.
Ms. ELLEN TAUSCHER (Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security): Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: First, is this dead for the lame-duck session, or do you think there's really any possibility of getting a vote?
Ms. TAUSCHER: Well, I certainly don't think it's dead as far as the president is concerned or the administration is concerned. What we have to do is to make sure that there's more about a principled view of this, and that we're looking at the merits of the treaty, not the politics of it.
SIEGEL: You seem to be implying that perhaps Senator Kyl and other Republicans are looking more at the politics. Could you at least explain the politics of this to us? It seems fairly confusing.
Ms. TAUSCHER: Well, I don't want to say anybody is looking at the politics of it, but I was in the House for seven terms, and so I...
SIEGEL: From California.
Ms. TAUSCHER: ...know that - from California. And I did chair the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and have been in many lame-duck sessions. And the lame-duck sessions are always a political time. But what is true is that this treaty has been debated significantly, and there have been 18 hearings. There have been over 900 questions for the record from virtually any senator that wanted to offer a question.
And, you know, it's been a month that the treaty itself has been available to be read at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so there's a lot of information about the treaty that's out there. And the previous treaty expired last December, so we have not had boots on the ground in Russia looking at their strategic nuclear forces for the last year.
And doing the verification, which, you know, as Ronald Reagan said, trust but verify. And right now, all we have is trust. And while we do have a restart to the relationship with Russia, the longer we go without this kind of inspection regime, it is more of an opportunity for mistrust and miscalculation to develop.
SIEGEL: The administration has promised first $80 billion, and more recently -it seems in response to Senator Kyl and other Republicans - another $4 billion for what's described as modernization of the U.S. nuclear complex. What does that mean? What would that actually do, all that money?
Ms. TAUSCHER: Well, I represented the only congressional district in the country in California that had two national nuclear labs in it, and so modernization is a very broad term. But effectively, we will have - as long we have nuclear weapons, we will have a safe and reliable and effective stockpile. And that means you need to make investments in infrastructure to make sure that you have the fastest computers in the world and the largest lasers in order to make sure that you can simulate testing and don't have to do testing, that you can actually have the best minds to do this, so that you have the best science, and that you actually can monitor the situation across the board, not only our situation but certainly the Russians with whom we have 90 percent of the nuclear weapons, but other actors across the globe that either have nuclear weapons or want them.
SIEGEL: To try to clarify where this obstacle in the Senate is or where this logjam in the Senate stands, can you describe some possible or proposed change to the treaty or an accompanying measure to the treaty that Senator Kyl or others say they want to see and that the administration says, no, we just can't do that?
Ms. TAUSCHER: No. I don't think we've been - seen any proposals specific to anything about the ratification process itself, and I think, frankly, a lot of the things that are repeated to me over and over again are either misunderstandings or just red herrings to avoid moving forward.
SIEGEL: Is it a valid political objection to say some things shouldn't be done when we can see the new Senate? They're waiting outside the doors. They're going to come in another couple of months, something this big should be left to them.
Ms. TAUSCHER: No. Because it's this Senate that has had the 18 hearings, and it's this Senate that had the 900 questions for the record, and it's this Senate the president put the treaty before. It's important that we get this done because every day that we don't have this treaty is a day that we only have trust but not verify.
SIEGEL: On the other hand, we haven't had a treaty now for several months. It doesn't seem to have been an especially troubled period in our relations with Russia and there are no nuclear crises that we've heard about. Is another year without a treaty really that much different and that much worse?
Ms. TAUSCHER: Well, it's my calculation that we need to get this done now because every day that we don't is a day that not only don't we have boots on the ground, but it's also a day that we can't move on to the other parts of the agenda. This was the New START Treaty but it was also the start of the reset of the relationship, and it is a very big agenda. There are...
SIEGEL: The agenda with Russia.
Ms. TAUSCHER: ...other things we'd like to do.
SIEGEL: The agenda in our relationship with Russia...
Ms. TAUSCHER: The agenda with Russia.
SIEGEL: ...not necessarily with strategic weapons.
Ms. TAUSCHER: And it includes other things that friends of us would like to talk about, including tactical nuclear weapons, the comprehensive test-ban treaty ratification, the fissile material cutoff treaty. But until we get New START ratified, we are at a stalemate, and we won't be able to go forward. And I think that that is a very unfortunately circumstance.
SIEGEL: Secretary Tauscher, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. TAUSCHER: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: Ellen Tauscher is undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
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