Editor's note: Dr. Peter Wilk is the executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the U.S. affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for its work alerting the public and policymakers of the dangers of nuclear war and for their efforts to prevent it.
(By Dr. Peter Wilk, on CNN website, November 19, 2010) --
Led by Jon Kyl of Arizona, a group of nuclear dinosaurs in the U.S. Senate is trying to block a clear path to a safer, healthier world. That path is the New START, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which significantly reduces America and Russia's nuclear weapons stockpiles and provides a sound protocol for verifying compliance.
President Medvedev of Russia and President Obama of the United States struck the deal last April, and now its fate lies in whether the Senate will vote to ratify it.
At this moment of decision, our elected officials must rise above narrow partisanship and consider how their actions affect our nation's health and security.
As a physician, I am deeply concerned that these two important priorities are being sacrificed to politics.
Senator Richard Lugar, R- Indiana, Speaking at the Department of State, November 17, 2010
SENATOR LUGAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam Secretary. Let me simply summarize this point of view. We’re talking today about the national security of the United States of America. The point is not simply a debate among senators at this point, it is a voice of the American people that has to inform senators that this treaty must be ratified and must be ratified in this session of the Congress. Why? Because, as Senator Kerry and Secretary Clinton have pointed out, since December 5, last December 5, we’ve had no boots on the ground to inform us of what, in fact, is occurring with regard to the nuclear weapons of Russia.
This is very serious. In my office, we have a scorecard that says at the beginning of the so-called Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, there were 13,300 (Russian) nuclear warheads aimed at us, our cities, our military installations, everything we have – 13,300. I’ve stated frequently to my constituents any one of those warheads could obliterate the city of Indianapolis and there are thousands still there. The American public might have forgotten about it. The senators may have forgotten about it. We are deeply concerned about North Korea and Iran and other programs in which there are maybe one, two, five, 20. But we’re talking about thousands of warheads that are still there, an existential problem for our country. To temporize at this point I think is inexcusable.
Now I have supported the modernization of our nuclears. I’ve supported all the efforts of the President, Senator Kerry, and to work with others in the Republican Party essentially, but we are at a point where we are unlikely to have either the treaty or modernization unless we get real. That’s the point of our meeting today, and I appreciate the Secretary (Clinton) sharing so vividly her impressions of indefatigable travel. I appreciate the chairman’s (Senator John Kerry) patience through the hearings, through negotiations. We thank each one of you for helping us share this with the American people.
(The world can be thankful that at least one Republican, and one of Senator Lugar's stature, is breaking ranks with the rest of his Republican colleagues on this issue, and standing alone, in support of President Obama's efforts to get this treaty passed in this session of Congress.)
from the United States Mission to the United Nations website, November 3, 2010
Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
November 3, 2010
Treaty Makes America More Secure, Has Broad Support, and Is Urgently Needed
The New START Treaty Makes America More Secure. Significantly reducing – by nearly 700 – the limit on the number of strategic nuclear weapons that Russia can deploy;
allowing us to keep a close eye on the remaining ones; building stability, predictability, and transparency for the two countries with 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons; and strengthening America’s fight against nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and rogue states.
Urgently Needed. Secretary of Defense Gates has said, “Since the expiration of the old START Treaty in December 2009, the U.S. has had none of these [verification] safeguards,” including no U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia keeping a watchful eye on Russia’s weapons. General Chilton, Commander of STRATCOM, stressed to Congress, “Without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities.”
Key Questions Have Been Answered.
Preserves America’s Triad of land-based and sea-based missiles and bombers and the military’s flexibility to take on any future new threats
No constraints on deploying the most effective missile defenses possible nor on developing and deploying conventional prompt global strike capabilities
Effective verification and inspection systems leaving Russia unable to achieve militarily significant cheating or breakout
More than $80 billion over the next ten years – including $10 billion in new money – to modernize our nuclear weapons complex
Wide Bipartisan Support. America’s most respected national security leaders, including secretaries of defense and state, and national security advisers for Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, support ratification – including George Shultz, James Baker, Sam Nunn, James Schlesinger, Bill Perry, Chuck Hagel, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton, Harold Brown, Madeleine Albright, Howard Baker, Frank Carlucci, Kenneth Duberstein, Brent Scowcroft, and Stephen Hadley.
Unanimous Support by Military Leadership. All senior Defense Department officials testified that they support ratification of New START. Secretary Gates stressed: “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership – to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent”. Seven former commanders of Strategic Command support the Treaty, assessing it “will enhance American national security in several important ways.”
Prepared and Ready. The Senate has been provided extensive information – 18 hearings, dozens of briefings and meetings, answers to over 900 questions for the record, and hundreds of pages of reports, analysis and testimony.
Memo to Jon Kyle and Republican Senators who oppose passage of this treaty in this session of Congress:
Making the world safer, Sir, is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It is a global issue. Blocking passage of this treaty at this time is, in a word, simply IRRESPONSIBLE.
The Republican party was not given a mandate to block passage of this treaty, in the election just held in early November. The Republican leadership in the Senate is, apparently, rigid and unmoving in its opposition to this treaty and should that actually occur, that is that the Senate either votes it down, or refuses to vote, during the current session, prior to the last day of sitting in December, 2010, then the people of all countries, including both the United States and Russia, whose leaders reached the agreement in good faith, will be rendered impotent in their own defence, and the blood of that impotence will be covering the hands of the Republican Senators, save and except Senator Lugar.
The Republican Party's stated objective "to make President Obama a one term president" must not encompass the passage of this treaty. Should you succeed in your efforts, the world will hold you and your colleagues responsible, at the next election, and for decades to come.
UPDATE, January 28, 2011
In the end the Republicans, or at least enough of them, voted with the Democrats, to pass the Treaty, and thereby reduce the threat of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists, or states verging on failure who might seek to acquire such weapons.