PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 12, 2010 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today delivered the military argument for Senate ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and talked about the future of deterrence.
Speaking at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said “the stars may have aligned” to pass the new START pact the United States negotiated with Russia.
“Deterrence today is tougher and more complex. More than one nation can now reach out and touch us with nuclear missiles,” Mullen said to a star-studded audience that included former secretaries of state George Shultz, Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger, and former Defense Secretary William J. Perry. “Americans are potential targets of terrorism wherever they travel, and regional instability in several places around the globe could easily erupt into large-scale conflict.
“Yet, we have done precious little spadework to advance the theory of deterrence,” he continued, noting the lack of serious discussion on deterrence since the end of the Cold War. “It is as if we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Soviet Union collapsed and said to ourselves, ‘Well, I guess we don't need to worry about that anymore.’ We were wrong. The demands of deterrence evolve.”
The new treaty will help with the discussion, Mullen said, and the time is right. The stars are aligning for passage, he added.
“A flood of Soviet troops into Afghanistan dissolved support for SALT II in the United States, whereas the fall of the Berlin Wall and later the Soviet Union may well have hastened the signing and ratification of START,” Mullen said. “Today, we lack a similar treaty with Russia. In fact, we haven’t had one for almost a year now. But the arms buildup in the aftermath of SALT II’s disintegration highlights the necessity for some sort of understanding, some sort of verifiable reduction and monitoring regime.”
It is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to ratify this treaty, the chairman told the audience. From the military aspect, the new START treaty “allows us to retain a strong and flexible American nuclear deterrent,” Mullen said.
“It strengthens openness and transparency in our relationship with Russia,” he added.
The treaty also demonstrates America’s commitment to nuclear arms reductions, Mullen said. “I am convinced that New START - permitting us as it does 1,550 aggregate warheads and the freedom to create our own force posture within that limit – leaves us with more than enough nuclear deterrent capability for the world we live in,” he explained.
Mullen said he’s convinced the treaty preserves the nuclear triad and retains U.S. flexibility to continue deploying conventional global strike capabilities.
“I am also convinced that the verification regime is as stringent as it is transparent, and borne of more than 15 years of lessons learned under the original START treaty,” he said.
The new treaty provides for 18 inspections annually, and for sharing data concerning the numbers, locations and technical characteristics of systems subject to the treaty, the admiral noted.
“In other words, we’ll know a lot more about Russian systems and intentions than we do right now,” he said. “And as I have said many times, in many different contexts, in this fast-paced, flatter world of ours, information, and the trust it engenders, is every bit as much a deterrent as any weapon we deploy.”
Because he worries about “what I don’t know and what I can’t see,” Mullen said, the treaty’s inspection provisions are critical.
“So, I believe, and the rest of the military leadership in this country believes, that this treaty is essential to our future security,” said the chairman told the audience. “I believe it enhances and ensures that security. And I hope the Senate will ratify it quickly.”