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During the height of the cold war, President Ronald Reagan regularly repeated the phrase "trust, but verify" regarding nuclear weapons.
President Reagan understood that America could not simply trust the Soviet Union to reduce nuclear stockpiles. His wisdom and strong leadership ensured that diplomatic promises were backed up with concrete action.
Today, President Reagan’s adage remains as relevant as ever.
Last week, President Barack Obama signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. He explained that the treaty "includes significant reductions in the nuclear weapons that we will deploy. It cuts our delivery vehicles by roughly half. It includes a comprehensive verification regime, which allows us to further build trust."
The president wants the Senate to ratify this treaty by the end of the year. The Senate will soon hold hearings on the treaty. As a member of the committee that oversees the treaty, I will demand answers about how the treaty will impact Wyoming and America’s security.
F.E. Warren Air Force Base’s current mission is critical to our national security. As home to 150 land-based Minuteman III missiles (ICBMs), F.E. Warren is a vital part of America’s "nuclear triad" -- our ability to deliver nuclear weapons from the air, land and sea.
F.E. Warren’s missile fields are strategically located and broadly dispersed in order to prevent them from successfully being attacked.
For over 50 years, the men and women at F.E. Warren have served with the highest level of professionalism. The missileers, maintainers and security forces are extremely capable. They have played a critical -- and quiet -- role in advancing America’s national security. Their work is serious and their commitment to our security is unwavering. Our nation must continue to entrust the men and women of F.E. Warren with keeping us safe and free.
Before I can support the START treaty, the president must demonstrate his commitment to preserving our entire nuclear triad. The administration must retain land-based ICBMs. If we decrease the footprint of our land-based ICBMs, we will weaken the safest, most secure, reliable, available, and cost-effective tool in America’s nuclear arsenal.
I recently traveled to Russia to inspect a number of sites involved in the elimination of Russia’s nuclear stockpile. This includes sites related to the security and safety of transporting and storing deactivated Russian nuclear weapons. Confirming that weapons have been eliminated is not a simple matter.
The president must prove that the START treaty is verifiable. While he has said that the treaty contains a verification regime, he must prove that it works and it works well. Russia must earn our trust. After all, only two weeks ago, Russian Prime Minister Putin visited Venezuela to sign a series of oil and arms agreements with President Hugo Chavez -- a dictator who is actively working to undermine America’s interests.
The president must convince me the treaty will not reduce America’s ability to defend our citizens and our allies from the threat of nuclear armed missiles. We should not lay down our sword when other nations are loading their guns. The threat facing our country is real that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of our enemies who would use them to deliver unspeakable harm to Americans and our allies. As the world faces threats from terrorists and rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, we cannot enter into an agreement that would provide our enemies with any advantage.
Finally, I will press the administration on the president’s overall nuclear strategy. Recently, President Obama introduced a separate policy called the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Specifically, the NPR report says the United States won’t use nuclear weapons against countries that don’t have nuclear weapons.
With this policy decision, President Obama eliminates one of our options in responding to a devastating chemical or biological attack. For the first time ever, our nation would be unable to use nuclear weapons to respond to a devastating chemical or biological attack from a country that doesn’t possess nuclear weapons. This is irresponsible. Our message to the world must be, "we will use all means to defend ourselves."
Our nuclear arsenal has always been the safest, most secure and effective deterrent in the world -- and it should remain that way. In addition to demanding "trust, but verify," we must also follow President Reagan’s policy of peace through strength.
John Barrasso is a U.S. senator from Wyoming.