At today’s ACA / Böll Foundation event, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller delivered the keynote address. She focused on the New START agreement, both making the case for its prompt ratification in the post-election session and providing an assessment of where the process stands now. Among the points she raised were:
- New START does not limit missile defenses. Here, Gottemoeller quoted Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. General Patrick O’Reilly, who stated that compared to the original START accord, New START actually reduces constraints on America’s missile defenses.
- The Obama administration has made a sincere effort to answer every concern from the treaty’s critics. Senate committees held a total of 18 hearings, and the administration has answered 900 questions from senators. In contrast, Gottemoeller noted that when the 1991 START agreement was under consideration, there were a total of 400 questions – this for a treaty whose text was substantially longer than New START’s.
- In response to those who argued that New START was flawed because it did not take Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons into account, she argued that if New START were rejected, the chances of reaching any future agreement on tactical weapons would be zero.
On the question of the politics of ratification, she said that the administration remains “optimistic.” She pointed to last week’s statements from President Obama and Secretary Clinton as evidence that New START is still a very high priority issue for the White House. She stated that the administration is confident that it has the votes to obtain the Senate’s advice and consent for ratification; it is simply a matter of when the Senate leadership will allow it to come up for a vote.