Loss of Crucial Nuke Treaty Will Mean More Russian Nukes Possible, No Verification Procedures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee and the founder and co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation, expressed his outrage at the Bush administration’s announcement that the START I Treaty will be allowed to expire. START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, mandated the deepest cuts in Russian nuclear weapons in history, and is widely regarded as the single most important nuclear arms control agreement ever negotiated.

Rep. Markey said, “The Bush administration’s decision to let START die is an absolute travesty. Time and again President Bush has shown that he simply does not comprehend what is required to make this country secure. For years, President Bush has treated arms control the same way a vampire treats sunlight – as something to be avoided at all costs. But it is unconscionable that the President would be willing to undo all the progress that we have made to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. ”

Negotiated in 1991, START runs for 15 years. At the 1997 Helsinki Summit, the United States and Russia each agreed in principle to negotiate an agreement to continue START in perpetuity, but now the Bush Administration is refusing to do so.

One of the most important provisions of START is an intrusive inspection protocol, which allows U.S. officials to visit Russian nuclear weapons sites and verify that the number of nuclear warheads does not exceed allowed levels. This vital inspection protocol will be lost if START is allowed to expire, leaving the U.S. intelligence community without one of its most important sources of information on Russian nuclear forces.

“Not only does START dramatically limit the number of nuclear weapons that Russia can point at our country, but its carefully negotiated inspection protocol allows the U.S. to do real on-site verification. These verification inspections are the heart of START and what make it one of the most important nuclear agreements that we have ever negotiated. By allowing START to lapse, President Bush is taking away, perhaps forever, our ability to know how many nuclear weapons Russia actually has,” Rep. Markey concluded.

May 23, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer