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The New START Equals a Stronger America

By Senator Ben Nelson

While the Senate has been out of session there are still issues facing us that are as hot as the August weather, one of which involves a treaty between two nuclear super powers, the U.S. and Russia.

During one of those hot August days I had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of military experts from around the country about the New START Treaty which is aimed at reducing the number of nuclear missiles deployed by both countries.

These experts came to Nebraska for a nuclear deterrence symposium sponsored by the U.S. Strategic Command, which is headquartered in Nebraska.


As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which has jurisdiction over nuclear weapons, I wanted to let those attending the symposium know that I support the New START.

This treaty has been signed by the presidents of both countries and now needs 67 votes in the Senate to be ratified. Failure to ratify it would foster the kind of uncertainty that could trigger a new nuclear arms race and the runaway defense spending that comes with it.   Transparency and information-sharing, which we are without now but will be provided for in the New START treaty, enable our military planners to better prepare for a response to a real threat. Without such agreements and understandings, our military and the military of countries like Russia must prepare for worst-case scenarios.

As I pointed out to the symposium, STRATCOM Commander General Kevin Chilton supports the treaty, saying that the United States would be safer and more secure if it is ratified.  I agree wholeheartedly with General Chilton; we will be safer with the treaty than without it.

Also, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said: “This treaty strengthens nuclear stability.  It will reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons that both Russia and the United States are permitted to deploy by a third, and maintains an effective verification regime.”

Strong Support

In the last 40 years, our country has participated in numerous arms control and nonproliferation efforts. They are a critical element of our national security strategy. This New START treaty has strong support from previous secretaries of state, defense secretaries and STRATCOM commanders going back through many administrations.

My hopes are that this will not be a partisan issue. Previous nuclear arms control treaties have been approved by the Senate with broad bipartisan support.

A Stronger America

Failure to ratify this treaty would create suspicions and not be helpful to improved and mutually beneficial relations with Russia. America will be stronger if we can continue to look under Russia’s hood, and they under ours. Trust but verify works.

Without this treaty, our understanding of Russian nuclear forces would deteriorate.  We would have a tendency for U.S forces to overcompensate for what we don’t know.  That’s a losing strategy in an era of large budget deficits and needed fiscal constraint.

This treaty moves us further away from a nuclear war no one wants because it would destroy so many lives. Even so, America will continue to have a powerful deterrent capability. That’s why it should be approved by the Senate.