THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
3:43 P.M. EDT
Let me say that I was sitting here thinking two things when the previous speakers were speaking. One is, it made me very proud to be an American, to know that our country had been served by people like these four, without regard to party. (Applause.) The second is that each in their own way represent a different piece of the American experience over the last 50 years and bring a remarkable combination of intellect, knowledge, experience and humanity to the remarks that they made.
There's a reason that President Eisenhower said we ought to do this, and a reason that President Kennedy agreed. They saw World War II from slightly different angles and different ranks, but they experienced the horror of the atomic era's onset in much the same way. I think you could make a compelling argument that this treaty is more needed now than it was when they advocated it; when there were only two nuclear powers. I think you could make a compelling argument that, given the events of the last couple of years, this treaty is more needed than it was when I signed it at the United Nations three years ago. Nuclear technology and know-how continue to spread. The risk that more and more countries will obtain weapons that are nuclear is more serious than ever.
I said yesterday -- I'd like to just stop here and go off the script. I am
very worried that the 21st century will see the proliferation of nuclear and
chemical and biological weapons; that those systems will undergo a process of
miniaturization, just as almost all other technological events have led us to,
in good ways and bad; and that we will continue to see the mixing and blending
of misconduct in the new century by rogue states, angry countries and terrorist
groups. It is, therefore, essential that the United States stay in the nonproliferation
lead in a comprehensive way.
But we have to ask ourselves just the same question they all presented, because
the nuclear threat is still the largest one, and are we better off or not if
we adopt this treaty?
One of the interesting things -- I'll bet you that people in other parts of the world, particularly those that have nuclear technology, are watching the current debate with some measure of bewilderment. I mean, today we enjoy unmatched influence, with peace and freedom ascendant in the world, with enormous prosperity, enormous technical advances. And by and large, on a bipartisan basis, we've done a pretty good job of dealing with this unique moment in history.
We've seen the end of the Cold War making possible agreements to cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by more than 60 percent. We have offered the Russians the opportunity of further cuts if they will ratify START II. But we know the nuclear peril persists, and that there's growing danger that these weapons could spread in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf, in Asia, to areas where our troops are deployed.
We know that they can be present in areas where there are intense rivalries
and, unlike at least the latter years of the Cold War, still very much the possibility
of misunderstanding between countries with this capacity.
The argument, it seems to me, doesn't hold water, this argument that somehow
we would be better off, even though we're not going to start testing again,
to walk away from this treaty and give a green light to all these other countries
in the world.
There are basically three categories of arguments against the treaty. Two have been dealt with. One is, well, this won't detect every test that anybody could do at every level. And General Shalikashvili addressed that. We will have censors all over the world that will detect far more tests than will be detected if this treaty is not ratified and does not enter into force. And our military have repeatedly said that any test of a size that would present any kind of credible threat to what we have to do to protect the American people we would know about and we could respond in an appropriate and timely fashion.
The second argument is no matter what all these guys say, they can find three scientists somewhere who will say -- or maybe 300, I don't know -- that they just don't agree and maybe there is some scenario under which the security and reliability of the nuclear deterrent in America can be eroded. Well, I think that at some point, with all these Nobel laureates and our laboratory heads and the others that have endorsed this -- say what they say, you have to say, what is the likelihood that America can maintain the security and reliability of its nuclear deterrent, as compared with every other country, if they come under the umbrella of this and the treaty enters into force?
The same people say that we ought to build a national missile defense, notwithstanding the technological uncertainties, because our skill is so much greater, we can always find a technological answer to everything. And I would argue that our relative advantage in security -- even if you have some smidgen of a doubt about the security and reliability issue -- will be far greater if we get everybody under this tent and we're all living under the same rules, than it will be if we're all outside the tent.
Now, there's a third sort of grab-bag set of arguments against it -- and I
don't mean to deprecate them. Some of them are actually quite serious and substantial
questions that have been raised about various countries' activities in particular
places, and other things. The point I want to make about them is, go back and
look at the process we adopted in the Chemical Weapons Convention. Every single
other objection that has been raised, or question that has been raised, can
be dealt with by adding an appropriately-worded safeguard to this treaty. It
either falls within the six we've already offered and asked for, or could be
crafted in a careful negotiation as a result of a serious process. So I do not
believe that any of these things are serious stumbling blocks to the profound
argument that this is in our interest.
Now, both of these countries have indicated they will sign this treaty. If our Senate defeats it, do you think they'll sign it? Do you think they'll ratify it? Do you think for a minute that they will forgo further tests if they believe that the leading force in the world for nuclear nonproliferation has taken a u-turn? If our Senate defeats the treaty, will it encourage the Russians, the Chinese and others to refrain from trying to find and test new, more sophisticated, more destructive nuclear weapons? Or will it give them a green light?
Now, I said earlier we've been working with Congress on missile defense to
protect us from a nuclear attack should one ever come. I support that work.
And if we can develop a system we think will work, we owe it to the American
people to work with the Russians and others to figure out a way to give our
people the maximum protection. But our first line of defense should be preventing
countries from having those weapons in the first place.
People say, well, but somebody might cheat. Well, that's true, somebody might cheat. Happens all the time, in all regimes. Question is, are we more likely to catch them with the treaty, or without?
You all know -- and I am confident that people on the Hill have to know -- that this test ban treaty will strengthen our ability to determine whether or not nations are involved in weapons activities. You've heard the 300 sensors mentioned. Let me tell you what that means in practical terms. If this treaty goes into effect, there will be 31 sensors in Russia, 11 in China, 17 in the Middle East alone, and the remainder of the 300-plus in other critical places around the world. If we can find cheating, because it's there, then we'll do what's necessary to stop or counter it.
Let me again say I want to thank the former chairs of the Joint Chiefs who
have endorsed this. I want to thank the current Chair, and all the Joint Chiefs,
and the previous service chiefs who have been with us in this: Lawrence Eagleburger,
the Secretary of State under President Bush; Paul Nitze, a top presidential
advisor from Presidents Truman to Reagan; former Senator Nancy Kassebaum-Baker
, many Republicans and Democrats who have dealt with this issue for years have
stayed with us. John Glenn, from Mercury to Discovery -- are you going up again,
John? -- has always been at the cutting edge of technology's promise. But he's
also flown fighter planes and seen war.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 4:03 P.M. EDT
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