Sen. Cornyn: New START Sends Message Of Weakness To America’s Adversaries

Today, I spoke on the Senate floor urging colleagues to oppose the current version of the New START Treaty and outlining reasons the treaty would send a message of weakness to America’s adversaries. 


Floor Remarks: New START in Strategic Context

As Prepared For Delivery
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mr. President: I oppose ratification of the New START Treaty for many of the same reasons my colleagues have identified, and which I spoke about last week. The treaty requires unilateral reductions for the United States on strategic nuclear weapons, and does not address tactical nuclear weapons, an area in which Russia has a 10:1 advantage. Its verification provisions are weak, allowing only 18 inspections a year for an arsenal of more than 1500 weapons. And the language in the preamble is ambiguous and could handcuff the United States from deploying the new capabilities we need in the future to defend our Nation and our allies from missile attacks.

New START is not a good treaty when you look at its various provisions – that is, as you reason from the whole to its parts. But the treaty also fails when you look at it the other way, when you reason from the parts to the whole, and when you see that this treaty is just another example – another symptom – of a foreign policy that sends a message of timidity, even ambivalence, not only about our own security, but also about American leadership in a dangerous world.

This larger strategic context is what we need to keep in mind, Mr. President.

We all know that President Obama set high expectations for his presidency in terms of how he would conduct U.S. foreign policy. In an early presidential debate, for example, he said he would meet with the leaders of five rogue nations – Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea – “without precondition during the first year of [his] administration.” Of course, we now know that didn’t happen. After he won the nomination, during his famous speech as a candidate in Berlin, he declared that he was a “citizen of the world.” And also: “This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet.”

President Obama wasn’t alone in promoting this grandiose vision of his presidency. Remember that the Nobel Prize Committee received his nomination for the Peace Prize less than six weeks after he took office. And in the citation for the award last year, they said: “Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics….Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the worlds attention and given its people hope for a better future.”

What’s the relevance of all this to the New START treaty? The relevance is that a big part of this utopian dream of a “new climate in international politics” has been the elimination of all nuclear weapons. In that Berlin speech, then-Senator Obama said that one of his priorities was to “renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” And the citation for the Nobel Peace Prize included this observation: “The Committee has attached special importance to Obamas vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons ... The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.”

So what’s wrong with a vision of the world without nuclear weapons? Can’t we hope and dream? Of course, even without nuclear weapons, tens of millions lost their lives in World War I and World War II. And any number of foreign policy experts have stated serious concerns about indulging in such a fantasy. George Kennan has said: “The evil of these utopian enthusiasms was not only or even primarily the wasted time, the misplaced emphasis, the encouragement of false hopes. The evil lay primarily in the fact that those enthusiasms distracted our gaze for the real things that were happening… . The cultivation of these utopian schemes, flattering to our own image of ourselves, took place at the expense of our feeling for reality.”

Moreover, I would add that 31 countries now depend on the U.S. nuclear deterrent for their ultimate security.

The President has not merely mused about fantastical notions that have no basis in the real world, he has criticized his own country on foreign soil so often that some have called it “the world apology tour.”

So what should our competitors and would-be adversaries make of such displays? Regretfully, I can only conclude that it sends an impression of weakness and lack of determination to maintain America’s leadership in the world. As President Reagan has said: “ We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” Experience has proven the truth of these words.

We should recall that President Obama has conducted “YouTube” diplomacy by recording a video for Iran’s leaders – but then withholding comment when those same leaders were brutally crushing their people’s hopes for freedom.

The President has treated several of our allies shamefully. Some of our allies have been slighted – like Britain; lectured – like Israel; or thrown under the bus on missile defense – like Poland and the Czech Republic. And he’s been so idealistic on the subject of nuclear weapons that President Sarkozy remarked about it publicly at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. President Sarkozy said: “We live in the real world, not in a virtual one…. President Obama himself has said that he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Before our very eyes, two countries are doing exactly the opposite at this very moment. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council Resolutions…. I support America’s ‘extended hand.’ But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community? Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a Member of the United Nations.”

I fear that the New START treaty will serve as another data point in the narrative of weakness, pursuing diplomacy for its own sake – or indulging in utopian dreams of a world without nuclear weapons – divorced from hard reality.

As I mentioned last week: Mr. Doug Feith helped negotiate the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty – known as the SORT Treaty. He says that during those negotiations, the Russians were constantly trying to get America to negotiate away our right to defend ourselves from missile attacks. The Bush Administration rejected those Russian demands – and got a good treaty anyway. The Obama Administration – on the other hand – gave Russia what it wanted on missile defense – among other concessions.

As we all know, the list of concessions that the Administration has given Russia in the New START treaty is long. Yet I ask my colleagues: where are the concessions that Russia has made to us? In what way is this treaty a good deal?

But my colleagues might reply: so what? So what if the Obama Administration’s worldview is a little idealistic – or even naïve? So what if the Russians negotiated a much better deal for themselves than the Obama Administration got for the United States? Shouldn’t we approve the treaty anyway – to build a better relationship with Russia and to help transform America’s reputation in the world?

Those are good questions – with some sobering answers. The Administration has long argued that its approach to diplomacy was not only good for its own sake, but that it would strengthen relationships with nations all over the world. How has that worked out?

Charles Krauthammer reviewed the global response to President Obama’s diplomatic overtures in this way: “Unilateral American concessions and offers of unconditional engagement have moved neither Iran nor Russia nor North Korea to accommodate us. Nor have the Arab states--or even the powerless Palestinian Authority--offered so much as a gesture of accommodation in response to heavy and gratuitous American pressure on Israel. Nor have even our European allies responded: They have anted up essentially nothing in response to our pleas for more assistance in Afghanistan.”

And of course we can look at the results of the New START treaty itself. Russians have responded to American concessions with contempt. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the treaty “cannot be opened up and become the subject of new negotiations.” And Prime Minister Putin has threatened a new arms race if Russia doesn’t get its way with this version of the treaty. Russians have the temerity to lecture us and attempt to intimidate the Senate from discharging our own constitutional responsibilities. We should not succumb.

Mr. President: In deciding whether to vote to ratify, I would respectfully ask whether some Senators may have been asking themselves the wrong question. Instead of asking themselves: “Why not ratify? What’s the harm?” The question should be: “Why should we?”

I urge my colleagues to vote against this treaty, not because I don’t care about the message it will send to Russia and other nations, but because I do care about that message – and it’s time we stopped sending a message of weakness that only encourages our adversaries.

I urge a “no” vote on this treaty to force the Obama Administration to go back to the negotiating table with the Russians; get a better treaty text for the Senate to consider; and make clear that the era of unilateral American concessions is over.

Mr. President: I thank the chair – and I yield the floor.


Make sure to check out the comments on Facebook.

Your speech today was not about the treaty. It was the usual pander to the far right base in the remote hope that someday you might be more than a Senator from Texas. Good luck on that. It was a rant against President Obama, who has done more to turn around the image of this country in two years than you or others of your philosophy could ever hope to do, and has more class in his little finger than you could ever hope to have. After all, it was your fellow Texan who created this mess in the first place. Fortunately, 13 of your colleagues who do have not Presidential aspirations rose above the usual partisan politics and did the right thing for the country and did not have to send out press release justifying their political decision.

I watched your speech and I watched the President's press conference later in the day and the contrast was striking. I am certain that the base, Limbaugh, Hannity, Gringrich, Palin, Beck, The Weekly Standard and company thought you were terrific. I have no doubt you could easily garner 30% of the vote in a general and if H. Barbour or John Bollton or one of the other ideologues fail to materialize - maybe even 32%. Your efforts at doing the right thing for the country in  the future would offer a greater return.

All the best.

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