The new start treaty

The New START treaty undoubtedly opens a new page in the relations between the United States and Russia. Its significance for strengthening the arms limitation regime is hard to overestimate. How did the ratification of the new treaty go? What are the New START's main differences from its predecessors? And what will be the real consequences of its entry into force?

The editors of the Security Index journal have put these questions to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller.

Q: The entry into force of the New START Treaty is an undoubted achievement for both sides – but the ratification process was slow and contentious. What were the main difficulties?

A: The signing of the new treaty did not just signal the end of the negotiating process between the two delegations, which took a little less than a year. It also enabled us to enter the crucial stage, the stage of ratification.

The package of documents for ratification was prepared very expeditiously, and the White House submitted it to the U.S. Senate by mid-May 2010.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Senator John Kerry, with Senator Richard Lugar as its ranking member, drew up an intensive schedule of hearings to make sure the treaty was reviewed promptly and thoroughly. The Armed Services and Intelligence Committees held additional hearings. Numerous administration officials, former government and military leaders, and representatives of non-governmental organizations testified about the Treaty.

Debates at the hearings were very intense right from the start. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu presented the Committees with compelling arguments in favor of the New START Treaty, emphasizing its significance for U.S. national security. I myself, along with Dr. Ted Warner from the Department of Defense, who was one of two deputy heads of the U.S. delegation, appeared four times before Senate Committees.

The committee also heard from Dr. Jim Miller, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency; and Gen. Kevin Chilton, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

Apart from members of the current Administration, the Committees also heard from former government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations and representatives of military commands who endorsed the Treaty, including former Defense Secretaries Bill Perry and Jim Schlesinger, former Secretaries of State James Baker and Henry Kissinger, and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

The hearings and debate on the Senate floor over the Treaty were intense because Senators were interested in the issue and the outcome of the ratification effort. Once the President submitted the Treaty to the Senate, Senators gave careful consideration to the Treaty, through 18 hearings, scores of briefings, and over 1,000 questions that the Administration answered for the official record of the Treaty debate. This level of interest was not unexpected. The issue of nuclear disarmament is critical to the national security of the United States and a major nuclear arms reduction treaty had not been considered by the U.S. Senate in many years.

The President appreciated the show of bipartisan support for the New START Treaty. This demonstration of bipartisanship underscored that Democrats and Republicans can work together on national security issues.