New START strengthens U.S. security, protects Malmstrom

Great Falls Tribune

by Senator Jon Tester

As the Senate took up the New START Treaty 18 months ago, I had the responsibility of protecting Malmstrom and strengthening the security of our nation.

This important treaty did both. That’s why, in the Senate 71 Republicans and Democrats worked together in supporting this non-partisan treaty.

It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that during this election season, there’s a new political talking point over New START.

First, a reminder of what New START does: By guaranteeing that both the U.S. and Russia are capped at the same number of nuclear warheads, this treaty prevents the Russians from increasing their arsenal and allows our nation better access to inspect Russia’s cold-war era stockpile of nuclear warheads— and more importantly to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong hands.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union two decades ago, it’s very difficult for our nation to verify the security of Russia’s leftover nukes. And since the rise of al-Qaida and the very real threat of terrorism, our duty has been to prevent rogue nations or terrorists from getting their hands on these catastrophic weapons.

Thanks to the New START Treaty, we have the tools to track these dangerous weapons and prevent terrorists from attacking us with “loose” nuclear weapons because of our ability to inspect and account for Russia’s arsenal.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the recent lapse of our ability to inspect Russia’s nuclear weapons made it harder for the U.S. to plan its defense strategy. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed. Last November, even Malmstrom’s vice commander told Montana Congressman Dennis Rehberg that because of this bipartisan treaty, our nation has “a much better understanding of what [Russia’s nuclear] capabilities really are.”

New START also strengthens our security by keeping Malmstrom’s ICBMs as the centerpiece of our overall defense strategy. Malmstrom’s ICBMs are our nation’s most costeffective nuclear deterrent. And under this treaty, Montana’s Airmen will remain on the front lines of this mission.

I have a strong commitment to strengthening our national security and Montana’s military future.

In 1996, Malmstrom lost its flying mission and closed its runway. In 2005, during the last Base Realignment and Closure effort, Montana lost its F-16 mission. And in 2006, President Bush’s Pentagon made the decision to remove 50 of Malmstrom’s ICBMs. All of that happened while Congressman Rehberg was in public office. And he did not stand up to the President then.

We need to be working together to do what’s right for our nation and for Montana— with long-term solutions. Not politically motivated talking points.

For most Republicans and Democrats, the priorities are to do what’s best for our nation and Montana, and to do everything in our power to guarantee our security. My focus remains on those priorities, not political campaigns.

New START reminds me of what President Ronald Reagan said about the Russians: “Trust, but verify.” New START does exactly that.

Sen. Jon Tester is a Democrat who is seeking re-election this November.