Earlier this year, all of the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a classified letter to Kerry expressing said concerns — however, they noted today that Kerry’s response was less than satisfactory.
“The fact that the response did not address many of the issues raised in the letter, combined with the fact that the annual compliance report is already several months past-due calls into question just how seriously the administration takes the issue of verification and enforcement of existing agreements,” the GOP senators continued in the Kerry letter. “We agree with President Obama’s statement that ’[r]ules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something’ and look forward to receiving additional information from you that this is the case when it comes to Russia’s track record on its multilateral and bilateral arms control commitments.”
The lawmakers also demanded to be brought up to speed on communications thus far between Washington and Moscow on arms reduction.
“During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama promised that he would seek ‘to foster better executive-legislative relations and bipartisan unity on foreign policy.’ In the spirit of that promise of cooperation and your own recent expressed interest in fostering bipartisan cooperation on arms control, we request a copy of the President’s letter to President Putin and the recently received Russian response,” the senators wrote.
The senators reminded Kerry of the constitutional process to send any new agreements through the upper chamber for advise and consent.
“We appreciate the administration’s expressed interest in restoring bipartisanship to arms control and believe that your answering of these questions and provision of this information will aid that effort and ensure adequate consultation with the Senate as your discussions with Russia proceed,” they wrote.
With a prompt, clear response this time from Kerry, the GOPs said, “the nominations of several senior State Department officials who will oversee U.S. arms control policy and strategic discussions with the Russians, especially that of Rose Gottemoeller to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security,” can move forward.
Separately from the Kerry letter, Hoeven noted reductions from the New START treaty still haven’t been met. That agreement required the U.S. to slash its arsenal from about 2,500 nuclear missiles to about 1,500. Now Obama wants to knock that down to 1,000.
“With Russia, China and North Korea expanding their nuclear arsenals, and Iran working furiously to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon, it makes no sense to cut our levels by another third beyond the treaty,” Hoeven said.
“The U.S. currently has an arsenal that our military commanders believe is appropriately sized to address the strategic threats facing the United States,” he added. “If anything, the world is more dangerous now than it was when New START was ratified just a few years ago. I don’t see how our security can be improved by slashing our strategic forces, especially as other countries like Russia, China and North Korea continue to increase their nuclear arsenals.”
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said national defense priorities “have always been a troubling issue with the Obama administration.”
“This decision is completely at odds with the current realities facing our nation and seems to be completely at odds with our request to require Congressional approval for any drawdowns,” Vitter said.
“President Obama basically told Russia’s president that he’ll walk away from our nuclear deterrence and at the same time is also walking away from helping protect our close allies in Europe right when the threat is greatest for them, particularly from Iran and others who we know are seeking these capabilities – I just hoped he wouldn’t actually do it.”