Washington – Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today led a group of their Senate collegues in urging President Trump to uphold the longstanding bipartisan consensus on nuclear arms control. The senators’ letter follows President Trump’s alarming decision to develop new nuclear weapons while also moving to unilaterally abandon vitally important nuclear weapons treaties. The senators called on the Trump administration to maintain our commitment to arms reduction by working with our allies to address Russia’s violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty instead of unilaterally withdrawing from the Treaty, and by extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits Russian nuclear weapons and provides the U.S. intelligence community with invaluable insights.
“Your administration’s efforts to double down on new, unnecessary nuclear weapons while scrapping mutually beneficial treaties risks the United States sliding into another arms race with Russia and erodes U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world,” the senators wrote to the president. “A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s. We ask you to reverse the recent course set by your administration and instead point our nation back towards stability.”
In addition to Feinstein, Gillibrand, Merkley, Warren, Markey and Klobuchar, the letter was also signed by Sens. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
The full text of the senators’ letter can be found below:
Dear President Trump,
In the 116th Congress, we will sustain our longstanding commitment to providing the resources needed to secure our nation and defend America’s allies. However, we write out of deep concern that your administration is now abandoning generations of bipartisan U.S. leadership around the paired goals of reducing the global role and number of nuclear weapons and ensuring strategic stability with America’s nuclear-armed adversaries.
Your administration’s efforts to double down on new, unnecessary nuclear weapons while scrapping mutually beneficial treaties risks the United States sliding into another arms race with Russia and erodes U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world.
First, to put us on a safer path, we urge you to redouble diplomatic efforts to preserve the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty rather than simply terminating it. One of President Reagan’s most significant accomplishments, and approved by the Senate in a vote of 93-5, the INF Treaty eliminated an entire class of missiles and formed the foundation for subsequent verifiable bilateral arms control treaties.
We should address Russia’s serious violation of the Treaty arising from its production, flight-testing, and deployment of a non-compliant ground-launched cruise missile (Novator 9M729, or SSC-8) by vigorously exploring a diplomatic resolution in close concert with our allies. NATO’s unanimous condemnation of Russia’s INF violation is a positive first step. However, the U.S. still lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the security threats that would result from a collapse of the INF Treaty. A U.S withdrawal from INF will embolden Russia to deploy, without any legal constraint, an unlimited number of currently banned missiles, thereby increasing the threat to our allies and forward deployed troops in Europe.
We must both hold Russia accountable for its violation of the INF Treaty and ensure that the United States and its allies maintain Treaty-compliant capabilities to deny any military gain Russia hopes to gain by its violation. In October of this year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “We don’t want a new arms race and therefore I don’t foresee that Allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.” Failure to weigh the concerns of allies risks weakening the joint resolve necessary to counter Russia’s aggressive behavior while handing Russia a “get out of jail free” card for its Treaty violation.
Second, we are concerned that your administration has taken no concrete steps toward extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, which is due to expire in February 2021. A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s. New START provides the U.S. military and intelligence community with crucial insight into the location, movement, and elimination of Russia’s strategic forces. Abandoning the Treaty would free Russia to expand its capacity to directly threaten the entire U.S. homeland.
Finally, we are also concerned that your proposed new types of nuclear weapons threaten the bipartisan consensus that investments in the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent and supporting infrastructure must be accompanied by pursuit of continued arms control measures.
In the 116th Congress, the Democratic Caucus will work to maintain generations of U.S. global leadership in reducing the salience and number of nuclear weapons. We ask you to reverse the recent course set by your administration and instead point our nation back towards stability.