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Conference Call with Lead Negotiator of New START

On Tuesday, November 30, NETWORK hosted a conference call on the New START (“Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”) agreement. The call was offered for Catholic activists in states whose senators will be key votes in advancing the treaty. We were joined by Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller was the lead negotiator of for New START, and has been an important advocate for moving the treaty toward ratification. Over 70 activists from key states called in to participate.

Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller offered a brief account of why New START is important. She emphasized four points:

  • New START will reverse the US’s diminishing knowledge of Russian nuclear weapons. It has been almost a year since the original START treaty went out of effect, and since then there have been no inspections into either side’s nuclear arsenal. Under the new treaty, there will be 18 short-notice inspections each year.
  • New START is a precursor to progress on additional weapons reductions. This includes reductions of tactical nuclear weapons, which are not covered by New START.
  • Delaying New START will harm ongoing non-proliferation efforts. This treaty demonstrates our commitment to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. If the U.S. allows it to fail, we will lose momentum and authority to take the lead on nuclear non-proliferation.
  • Delaying New START will have a damaging impact on our relationship with Russia. This will impact a number of areas, including limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities and supplying troops in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has worked to “reset” relations with Russia, and New START is a crucial component of that effort.

A caller asked a question about the nature of the opposition to New START. What exactly are the arguments against the treaty? Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller reviewed some common objections.

  • Some have alleged that negotiators struck a “secret deal” to limit missile defense, which is not addressed in the text of the treaty. Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller assured callers that this is entirely untrue.
  • Some have called for increased funding for modernization of our nuclear facilities. The administration has committed at least $10 billion in excess of previous modernization funding levels. This is consistent with President Obama’s observation that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. must maintain a safe, secure, effective arsenal.
  • Some have objected to the verification mechanisms in the new treaty. Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller assured callers that the new inspection regime will be superior to the old. Inspectors from the previous regime have shared their expertise and helped to craft more effective and efficient inspection mechanisms for New START.
  • Finally, some urged the Senate not to rush consideration of New START. Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller emphasized that the Senate has already deliberated the treaty thoroughly. She herself has answered over 1,000 questions on the record about the treaty, and the Senate has held numerous hearings. Furthermore, to delay the treaty until 2011 would essentially mean starting over, and could take up to a year.

For further information on New START, read the following Fact Sheets:

Also, read an article by Rose Gottemoeller in The Hill:

After taking a handful of questions, Asst. Sec. Gottemoeller left the conference call. The next speaker was Steve Colecchi, Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International justice and Peace. Steve emphasized that we need New START to pass, and to pass with an overwhelming vote. As we move forward on other nuclear efforts, it will be important that the New START vote demonstrates the broad bipartisan support for nuclear arms reduction. The Senate will hopefully take action on the treaty during either the week of Dec. 6 or Dec. 13.

Between now and then, the advocates need to contact all senators, with special emphasis on Republicans. Steve emphasized that, as Catholic, we are motivated by our faith to protect people from indiscriminate and disproportionate weapons, including nuclear weapons.

To read Bishop Howard Hubbard’s letter urging the Senate to ratify New START, click here:

Steve was followed by David Golemboski of NETWORK, who urged callers to take three actions: (1) Email their senators; (2) Call their senators; (3) Organize friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to do the same. Also, gathering statements of support from community leaders can help build momentum. The matter is urgent, so there is no time to waste before taking action.

To email your senators via NETWORK’s website, click here:

To call your senators, use the Capitol Switchboard: 1 (202) 224-3121.