WAND Lobbies US Sen. Isakson to Ratify US-Russia Treaty

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(APN) ATLANTA — Activists from Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions and other organizations have been lobbying US Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, to vote yes on the new US-Russia START agreement.

On April 08, 2010, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed in Prague by the United States and Russia, a treaty which would reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads to levels not seen since the 1950’s.

The new START will reduce nuclear warheads from each country by 650 which will bring the total down to 1,550 deployable nuclear weapons from the current level of 2,200. Deployable means the nuclear weapons are on a 15 minute hair trigger to being launched.

This is still far more than enough nuclear weapons to annihilate everyone and everything on the planet many times over. New START is a positive but small step in the right direction to make the world safer from nuclear destruction for all future generations.

Georgia WAND works on many levels to educate citizens about nuclear weapons issues and to advocate for nuclear disarmament. Some of their projects to get information out to the public and elected officials about the new START have included writing letters, submitting opinion articles, giving presentations on START to Georgia groups, making petitions and letters to representatives available for the public to sign at different events, phone banking across the state, conducting educational programs, participating in panel discussions, and lobbying.

Delegations from WAND have met with Senator Johnny Isakson in DC and with his staffers regularly on New START. Every spring WAND takes a delegation from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) to lobby in DC.

“I have met with Senator Isakson on at least four occasions regarding New START and also had discussions with him about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT),” Bobbie Paul, Executive Director of Georgia WAND, told APN. CTBT prevents other countries from conducting tests that could lead to new and more deadly weapons.

“We believe that New START is a critically needed step to make our nation more secure and to increase our credibility as we move to decrease the number of nuclear weapons here and in Russia and promote securing loose nuclear materials worldwide,” Paul said.

Numerous former Democratic and Republican professionals, including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Colin Powell, James Baker; former US Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA); former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger; and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft have endorsed New START. Former U.S. military commanders of Strategic Air Command and U.S. Strategic Command have written letters to the Senate supporting the treaty. The Secretaries of Defense, State and Energy have all spoken out in support of New START.

“This treaty will provide for inspections that the United States would not otherwise be able to hold,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

“For 15 years, START provided us access to monitor and inspect Russia’s nuclear arsenal. START expired last December. It, therefore, has been more than eight months since we have had inspectors on the ground in Russia. This is a critical point. Opposing ratification (of New START) means opposing the inspections that provide us a vital window into Russia’s arsenal. This treaty in no way does or will constrain our ability to modernize our nuclear enterprise or develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses for the sake of our security and for our allies, friends, and partners,” Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State said.

However Republican Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-NV), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have repeatedly criticized the treaty. Mitt Romney, a 2008 Presidential candidate, is also adamantly opposed to the treaty in the run up to the 2012 election.

US Sen. DeMint, R-SC, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, says New START will weaken US national security. “New START is another Obama giveaway at the expense of US citizens,” DeMint said in an US News and World Report op-ed.

Some advocates believe the Republican holdouts are basing their position more on election politics–that is, for the sake of opposing the Obama Administration–rather than the facts or merits of the treaty. They may also be pandering to antiquated, Cold War thinking that more and more nuclear weapons equates safety.

New START will protect all people against nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. It will increase US national security by dismantling excess nuclear weapons and making it less likely for an accident to occur or for terrorists to obtain fissile material to build a bomb. It will also allow the US, once again, to inspect Russia’s nuclear arsenal. The treaty places no constraints on US missile defense plans now or in the future.

The original START treaty was proposed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, and START I was signed by Republican President George H. W. Bush. The fact that most Republicans in the past had no problem in ratifying START shows how petty partisan politics today have become.

“START I passed 93-6 under President George H.W. Bush. It has always enjoyed bi-partisan support and has been effective. Military advisors from the past seven administrations all support START,” Paul said.

In May of this year, Secretary of State Clinton explained to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “This is a treaty that will reduce the permissible number of Russian and U.S.-deployed strategic warheads to 1,550. In addition, each country will be limited to 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic missile launchers and heavy bombers. These targets will help the United States and Russia bring our deployed strategic arsenals, which were sized for the Cold War, to levels that are appropriate for today’s threats. This is a treaty that will help us track remaining weapons with an extensive verification regime.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote September 16–or this Thursday–on the New START.

US Sen. Isakson is a critical Republican vote on that committee. If the treaty is not approved by a bipartisan coalition including at least a few Republicans on the Committee, it will be more difficult for the treaty to pass the full US Senate.

Paul has said that she is hopeful Isakson will vote yes. She believes that the senator “sees himself as a statesman.”

Isakson and US Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) will both vote when New START comes before the full Senate. Sixty-seven (67) votes – a two-third’s majority – are needed to ratify the treaty in the full Senate.

One thing being negotiated by Republicans for their yes vote is more money for the massive nuclear weapons complexes throughout the US. This money will be used for modernization or to upgrade new systems at nuclear weapons facilities. As previously reported by APN, this could include building new plutonium bombs to replace ones the government says are aging.

US Sens. Isakson and Bob Corker (R-TN) are the key holdouts on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who have not confirmed their plans to vote yes or no.

Isakson is being lobbied heavily by the very wealthy and conservative Heritage Foundation which wants New START defeated. That is in part why WAND is calling people across Georgia asking them to call US Sen. Isakson (770-661-0999) and tell him to vote “YES” on New START. WAND’s goal is 3,000 calls to Senator Isakson’s office before Wednesday.

Georgia WAND has delivered over 1,000 letters to each Georgia Senator urging them to vote YES to ratify the New START treaty.

A clerk in Isakson’s office told APN that the Senator had not yet made up his mind and was considering both sides.

Other local and national groups engaged in supporting New START are the Daisy Alliance; the Atlanta Presbytery, North Decatur and Central Presbyterian Church, the Quakers, the Methodist Church, the Unitarian Church, and many other faith groups; the League of Women Voters; student groups with Global Zero at the University of Georgia; Global Voice; Physicians for Social Responsibility; the United Nations Association chapters in Georgia; and others.

(END/2010)

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