Posts Tagged ‘War

10
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD

NEWS
Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD
President Obama Announces Changes to Help Veterans with PTSD Receive the Benefits They Need

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama announced that on Monday the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Shinseki, will begin to make it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive the benefits they need. For many years, veterans with PTSD have been stymied in receiving benefits by requirements they produce evidence proving a specific event caused the PTSD. Streamlining this process will help not just the veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but generations of veterans who have served and sacrificed for the country.

Last weekend, on the Fourth of July, Michelle and I welcomed some of our extraordinary military men and women and their families to the White House.

They were just like the thousands of active duty personnel and veterans I’ve met across this country and around the globe. Proud. Strong. Determined. Men and women with the courage to answer their country’s call, and the character to serve the United States of America.

Because of that service; because of the honor and heroism of our troops around the world; our people are safer, our nation is more secure, and we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq by the end of August, completing a drawdown of more than 90,000 troops since last January.

Still, we are a nation at war. For the better part of a decade, our men and women in uniform have endured tour after tour in distant and dangerous places. Many have risked their lives. Many have given their lives. And as a grateful nation, humbled by their service, we can never honor these American heroes or their families enough.

Just as we have a solemn responsibility to train and equip our troops before we send them into harm’s way, we have a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they’ve earned when they come home.

That is our sacred trust with all who serve – and it doesn’t end when their tour of duty does.

To keep that trust, we’re building a 21st century VA, increasing its budget, and ensuring the steady stream of funding it needs to support medical care for our veterans.

To help our veterans and their families pursue a college education, we’re funding and implementing the post-9/11 GI Bill.

To deliver better care in more places, we’re expanding and increasing VA health care, building new wounded warrior facilities, and adapting care to better meet the needs of female veterans.

To stand with those who sacrifice, we’ve dedicated new support for wounded warriors and the caregivers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recovery.

And to do right by our vets, we’re working to prevent and end veteran homelessness – because in the United States of America, no one who served in our uniform should sleep on our streets.

We also know that for many of today’s troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home.

Too many suffer from the signature injuries of today’s wars: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. And too few receive the screening and treatment they need.

Now, in past wars, this wasn’t something America always talked about. And as a result, our troops and their families often felt stigmatized or embarrassed when it came to seeking help.

Today, we’ve made it clear up and down the chain of command that folks should seek help if they need it. In fact, we’ve expanded mental health counseling and services for our vets.

But for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits – veterans of today’s wars and earlier wars – have often found themselves stymied. They’ve been required to produce evidence proving that a specific event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting the care they need.

Well, I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.

So we’re changing the way things are done.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Ric Shinseki, will begin making it easier for a veteran with PTSD to get the benefits he or she needs.

This is a long-overdue step that will help veterans not just of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but generations of their brave predecessors who proudly served and sacrificed in all our wars.

It’s a step that proves America will always be here for our veterans, just as they’ve been there for us. We won’t let them down. We take care of our own. And as long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, that’s what we’re going to keep doing. Thank you.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
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23
Jun
10

President Obama on Afghanistan, General McChrystal & General Petraeus

NEWS
President Obama on Afghanistan, General McChrystal & General Petraeus

Obama relieves McChrystal of command
Gen. David Petraeus named to take over troubled Afghan war

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The White House says the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan made an ‘enormous mistake’ in an unflattering magazine article, and ‘all options are on the table’ with regard to General Stanley McChrystal’s job.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly refused on Tuesday to say that McChrystal is safe in his post or could be considered by President Barack Obama to continue as an effective commander in Afghanistan.

The president summoned McChrystal to Washington to attend, in person, on Wednesday a meeting on the war and explain the comments in the story.
“We’ll have more to say after that meeting,” Gibbs said of McChrystal’s future.

In one part of the story, McChrystal complained about Obama’s preparedness in one of their first meetings. Gibbs responded tartly to that: “He’ll have his undivided attention tomorrow.”

This afternoon the President spoke on new leadership for the mission in Afghanistan, full remarks below:

Good afternoon. Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.

I’m also pleased to nominate General David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership that we need to succeed.

I don’t make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy. Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I’ve got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform.

Over the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a reputation as one of our nation’s finest soldiers. That reputation is founded upon his extraordinary dedication, his deep intelligence, and his love of country. I relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan. So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal’s remarkable career in uniform.

But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.

The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

My multiple responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief led me to this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war, and to the democratic institutions that I’ve been elected to lead. I’ve got no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out.

That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them. That allows us to come together as one. That is part of the reason why America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.

Second, I have a responsibility to do what is – whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. I believe that this mission demands unity of effort across our alliance and across my national security team. And I don’t think that we can sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without making this change. That, too, has guided my decision.I’ve just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option, but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division. All of us have personal interests; all of us have opinions. Our politics often fuels conflict, but we have to renew our sense of common purpose and meet our responsibilities to one another, and to our troops who are in harm’s way, and to our country.

We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere. We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan security from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world.

So make no mistake: We have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.

That’s the strategy that we agreed to last fall; that is the policy that we are carrying out, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In that effort, we are honored to be joined by allies and partners who have stood by us and paid the ultimate price through the loss of their young people at war. They are with us because the interests and values that we share, and because this mission is fundamental to the ability of free people to live in peace and security in the 21st century.

General Petraeus and I were able to spend some time this morning discussing the way forward. I’m extraordinarily grateful that he has agreed to serve in this new capacity. It should be clear to everybody, he does so at great personal sacrifice to himself and to his family. And he is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post.

Let me say to the American people, this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy. General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall, and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place. In his current post at Central Command, he has worked closely with our forces in Afghanistan. He has worked closely with Congress. He has worked closely with the Afghan and Pakistan governments and with all our partners in the region. He has my full confidence, and I am urging the Senate to confirm him for this new assignment as swiftly as possible.

Let me conclude by saying that it was a difficult decision to come to the conclusion that I’ve made today. Indeed, it saddens me to lose the service of a soldier who I’ve come to respect and admire. But the reasons that led me to this decision are the same principles that have supported the strength of our military and our nation since the founding.

So, once again, I thank General McChrystal for his enormous contributions to the security of this nation and to the success of our mission in Afghanistan. I look forward to working with General Petraeus and my entire national security team to succeed in our mission. And I reaffirm that America stands as one in our support for the men and women who defend it.

Thank you very much.

• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): The White House
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29
May
10

Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen

NEWS
Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen
President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asked all Americans to join him in remembering and honoring our men and women in uniform who have died in service to the country. The commitment these heroes have demonstrated – the willingness to lay down their lives so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation – has helped make America the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth and it is what we honor on Memorial Day.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.

It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.

Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.

There are any number of reasons America emerged from its humble beginnings as a cluster of colonies to become the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth. There is the hard work, the resilience, and the character of our people. There is the ingenuity and enterprising spirit of our entrepreneurs and innovators. There are the ideals of opportunity, equality, and freedom that have not only inspired our people to perfect our own union, but inspired others to perfect theirs as well.

But from the very start, there was also something more. A steadfast commitment to serve, to fight, and if necessary, to die, to preserve America and advance the ideals we cherish. It’s a commitment witnessed at each defining moment along the journey of this country. It’s what led a rag-tag militia to face British soldiers at Lexington and Concord. It’s what led young men, in a country divided half slave and half free, to take up arms to save our union. It’s what led patriots in each generation to sacrifice their own lives to secure the life of our nation, from the trenches of World War I to the battles of World War II, from Inchon and Khe Sanh, from Mosul to Marjah.

That commitment – that willingness to lay down their lives so we might inherit the blessings of this nation – is what we honor today. But on this Memorial Day, as on every day, we are called to honor their ultimate sacrifice with more than words. We are called to honor them with deeds.

We are called to honor them by doing our part for the loved ones our fallen heroes have left behind and looking after our military families. By making sure the men and women serving this country around the world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home safely. By making sure veterans have the care and assistance they need. In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country – and their families – as well as they have served us.

On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.

A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.

• Source(s): The White House
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12
Apr
10

Harry Reid kicks off campaign tour in Searchlight

NEWS
Harry Reid kicks off campaign tour in Searchlight

Monday, April 12, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already had a lot of things on his plate to get done in the Senate this year, even before last week’s news broke. Now he’s facing two more big issues in the midst of an election year (and in the midst of a fight for his own political life in Nevada) – a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and an upcoming confirmation battle over a Supreme Court nomination. Given that Harry Reid’s Senate is not exactly known for moving with blinding speed (to be fair, few Senates are), one has to wonder whether Harry Reid can deliver on some of these big issues before the midterm elections or not.

The three major issues which Reid presently faces are the “New START” treaty, the Supreme Court nomination battle, and Wall Street reform. There are other issues just as large (and just as confrontational) which conventional Washington wisdom has already decided Reid isn’t even going to tackle in an election year (comprehensive immigration reform and a new energy policy, to name two of the biggest), although it must be said that politics is always fluid, so this conventional wisdom may prove wrong by November. Add to this the regular issues which the Senate must deal with (such as the budget), as well as pressing political problems like jobs legislation, and it’s pretty easy to see that Reid faces an overwhelming list of things to do this year.

Which means that a lot of the focus in Washington this year is going to be centered squarely on the Senate. Nancy Pelosi’s House has shown that it is much quicker and more productive, passing dozens of good bills (many with widespread Republican support), which have then done nothing but languish in the Senate. This backlog adds even further to Reid’s “to do” list. To be fair, the House does not have such constitutional duties as ratifying treaties or confirming judges. Because the Senate does, and because it faces one of each right now, it is just going to shrink the available time for the Senate to act on legislative issues this year.

Just considering the three highest-priority items on that list currently, it’s easy to see how they could eat up most (or all) of the Senate’s time between now and Election Day. Wall Street reform is the first of these scheduled for a showdown on the Senate floor. And – much like the health reform bill – this is a huge and complicated issue, with plenty of room for watering things down and inserting loopholes in the fine print. Which is exactly what both Republicans and Democrats who have sold their soul to the banking industry are going to attempt. If they don’t kill the bill outright, that is, or delay it endlessly until Reid cries “Uncle!” and shelves the whole debate.

To be blunt, Reid’s performance in the health reform struggle does nothing to inspire confidence that the donnybrook over Wall Street reform will be any different. To Reid’s credit, on health reform, he did finally deliver. About nine months late, but given the constraints he was working under (especially when Democrats lost the filibuster-proof majority they theoretically had), putting anything at all on the president’s desk was indeed a big achievement. But this time, we don’t have those extra nine months. And the constraints Reid faced then have not gone away. Which leaves passage of any meaningful Wall Street reform a real open question, at this point.

The next big, contentious issue on Reid’s schedule will be shepherding President Obama’s Supreme Court pick through the confirmation process. This fight will be different for two reasons. The first is that, ultimately, it is a binary choice for senators to make – either “yea” or “nay.” Unlike a legislative battle, where changing a paragraph here or there can gain you some votes, with a court nominee you’re either going to be for him or her, or against him or her – there’s no middle ground. The second reason this fight will be different is that it will have a real and concrete deadline. Justice John Paul Stevens is stepping down at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term, and the Senate really is going to need to act before the next term begins – which happens before the election. Meaning Harry Reid is going to face a deadline he won’t be able to ignore. And, so far, he hasn’t been all that impressive about meeting deadlines lately – although (again, to be fair) he did manage to do so the last time he faced this situation, confirming Sonia Sotomayor in a timely enough fashion for her to join the high court before its term began last year.

The third big issue Reid faces will be the Senate exercising their constitutional duty to ratify (or reject) the New START treaty which President Obama just signed. However, there is no real deadline on treaty ratification (at least, not as far as I know – there may be such a deadline in the language of the treaty itself). What this means is that if Harry Reid has to “punt” any of these three issues past the election itself, this is going to be the prime candidate to get put off.

The Senate returned to work today, after a two-week vacation. Or, as they officially and euphemistically call it, a “State Work Period” (even though they are fooling precisely nobody with this cheerfully Orwellian label). From today until Election Day dawns, the Senate has a further seven weeks of vacation time scheduled (so far). That’s one week for Memorial Day, one week for Independence Day, and five whole weeks for the “August In D.C. Is So Hellish Month.” And these are just the vacation periods scheduled so far (the “tentative” schedule currently says nothing about post-Labor Day vacations). Which is not to say that they aren’t going to take a big chunk of October off, to go home and campaign their little hearts out. In the last two midterm election years (2006 and 2002), the Senate took off six weeks and three weeks, respectively. In particular, 2006 was a relaxed and leisurely year for the Senate, as they worked precisely one week in all of October and November combined (a six-week election break was followed by one week of work, then two weeks off for Thanksgiving – nice work, if you can get it, eh?).

Taken together, the two weeks for holidays, the five weeks in August, and the (likely) four weeks or so before the election where the Senate won’t be in session, the schedule leaves only a little over four months’ worth of actual working time to get anything done. The Supreme Court pick is likely going to eat up roughly a month of this time, possibly more. Wall Street reform is going to take at least a month or two (and that is being wildly optimistic, I should add). Even if Reid punts on the treaty ratification, it’s easy to see that the calendar is going to be an awfully tough one for Senate Democrats to get much done outside of the major issues this year. Which puts even more pressure on them to deliver on the major issues themselves, I should add.

Congressional Democrats would like to campaign this year on the things they’ve been able to accomplish. As well as (knock wood) an economy that is visibly getting better for people, of course. So far, the things Democrats have been able to accomplish haven’t exactly resonated with the public (health care, the stimulus, etc.). Whether Democratic officeholders have anything else to put before the voters as solid Democratic accomplishments is going to hinge mostly on Reid’s performance for the rest of this year.

If Harry Reid can manage to produce, he may improve his own currently-dismal re-election chances in Nevada, as well as give the Democratic voter base a reason to get enthusiastic about voting in November. But, if Reid cannot deliver, a lot of Democrats are going to be sucked down on Reid’s “coattails” come Election Day. Now, obviously, there are other factors at play in this election season – which, like all midterms, is problematic for the president’s party – but Harry Reid could either give Democrats a real boost in their chances at the polls by delivering a few big wins (and, one hopes, a whole bunch of smaller wins), or he could squander this opportunity and not provide legislative victories for Democrats to tout on the campaign trail.

Harry Reid has the rest of this year to produce some solid Senate victories. And the question remains: Can Harry Reid actually deliver? For many Democrats, the answer to this question is a whole lot more than merely academic, and may in fact mean quite a bit to their own chances in the upcoming election.

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08
Apr
10

U.S. And Russia Sign Historic Nuclear Treaty

NEWS
U.S. And Russia Sign Historic Nuclear Treaty

Thursday, April 8, 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama and the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, have signed a landmark nuclear arms treaty in the Czech capital, Prague.

The treaty commits the former Cold War enemies to each reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1 550 – 30 percent lower than the previous ceiling.

It also limits the number of deployed “launchers” – ballistic missiles and heavy bombers – to no more than 700.

The deal replaces the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 1991.

After it was agreed, Obama hailed the deal as the most comprehensive weapons control agreement in nearly two decades.

“With this agreement, the United States and Russia – the two largest nuclear powers in the world – also send a clear signal that we intend to lead,” he said.

The treaty must be ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma.

The U.S. and Russian leaders signed the New START treaty at 12:00 pm CET (8:00 am EDT) in Prague Castle (Spanish Hall), the Czech president’s residence.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, President Obama said the treaty demonstrated that both countries had halted the deterioration of their relations, which had prevented agreement on mutually important issues in the past.

“When the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it’s not good for either of our nations, nor is it good for the world. Together we’ve stopped that drift and proven the benefits of co-operation,” he added.

Mr. Obama said the pact was “an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation” and set the stage for further arms cuts.

“While the New Start treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey. This treaty will set the stage for further cuts, and going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons.”

He said the talks – beginning this summer – would cover missile defence, threat assessments, and the completion of a joint assessment of emerging ballistic missiles.

For his part, President Medvedev said the negotiating process had not been simple, but the treaty represented a “win-win situation” that would enhance strategic stability and bilateral relations.

“The result we have obtained is good,” he said. “We have got a document that fully maintains the balance of interests between Russia and the U.S. The main thing is that there are no victors or losers here.”

But Mr. Medvedev said disagreements remained between Moscow and Washington over U.S. plans for a missile defence shield, which have been modified by Mr. Obama.

On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign minister warned that it could abandon the New Start treaty “if a quantitative and qualitative build-up of the U.S. strategic anti-missile potential begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russia’s strategic forces”.

It was Moscow’s concerns over Washington’s plans to base interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic that helped delay the new treaty. President Obama shelved the idea in September, although new plans include ground-based interceptor missiles in Romania.

The White House has said it hopes and expects the U.S. Senate to ratify the New Start treaty this year. Senate ratification requires 67 votes, which means it must include Republicans.

The Russian lower house of parliament must also approve the treaty, but as long as the Kremlin supports it, ratification there is expected to be a formality.

During private talks before the signing ceremony, Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev also discussed Iran’s nuclear programme.

The U.S. wants the U.N. Security Council to approve tougher sanctions against Tehran, over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

“Unfortunately Tehran is not reacting to an array of constructive compromise proposals. We cannot close our eyes to this,” Mr. Medvedev said afterwards.

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26
Mar
10

President Obama Announces the New START Treaty

NEWS
President Obama Announces the New START Treaty

Friday, March 26, 2010

Climaxing months of hard negotiations, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed today to sharp cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both nations in the most comprehensive arms control treaty in two decades. “We have turned words into action,” Obama declared.

The completion of this agreement gives Obama his biggest foreign policy achievement just days after his biggest domestic accomplishment: winning approval of his health care overhaul.

Obama said the pact, to be signed on April 8 in Prague, was part of his effort to reset relations with Russia and a step toward “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The agreement would require both sides to reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons by about a third, from 2,200 now to 1,550 each. The pact, replacing and expanding the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, which expired in December, was a significant gesture toward improved US-Russian relations that have been badly frayed.

The reductions would still leave both sides with immense arsenals – and the ability to easily annihilate each other.

“In many ways, nuclear weapons represent both the darkest days of the Cold War, and the most troubling threats of our time,” Obama said at the White House. “Today, we have taken another step forward in leaving behind the legacy of the 20th century while building a more secure future for our children.”

In Russia, Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told the Interfax news agency, “This treaty reflects the balance of interests of both nations.”

A Kremlin statement said, “The new treaty stipulates that strategic arms will be based exclusively on the territories of each of the nations.”

Both sides would have seven years after the treaty’s ratification to carry out the approximately 30 per cent reduction in long-range nuclear warheads. The agreement also calls for cutting by about half the missiles and bombers that carry the weapons to their targets.

“We have turned words into action. We have made progress that is clear and concrete. And we have demonstrated the importance of American leadership – and American partnership – on behalf of our own security, and the world’s,” Obama said.
Though the agreement must still be ratified by the Senate and both houses of the Russian Parliament before it takes effect, Obama and Medvedev plan to sign it next month in Prague, the city where last April, Obama delivered his signature speech on arms control.

For his administration, a major value of the treaty is in setting the stage for potential further successes.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, standing with Defence Secretary Robert Gates alongside Obama, noted next month’s international meeting of leaders on nuclear proliferation being hosted by the president in Washington, focused on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists and rogue states.

“We come with more credibility, Russia comes with more credibility, having negotiated this treaty,” she said.

Ratification in the Senate will require 67 votes, two thirds of the Senate, meaning Obama will need support from Republicans. Some Republican senators had previously expressed concerns about concessions being made by U.S. negotiators.

Clinton, asked whether approval could be achieved given the recent fierce partisan battles and close votes over health care, said it could.

“National security has always produced large bipartisan majorities, and I see no reason why this should be any different,” she said. “I believe that a vast majority of the Senate, at the end of the day, will see that this is in America’s interest. And it goes way beyond politics.”

In Russia, the treaty goes first to the State Duma, the lower house, and then to the Federation Council.

Speaking in the White House briefing room, Obama said the treaty by the globe’s two largest nuclear powers would “send a clear signal that we intend to lead” the rest of the world in reducing the nuclear threat.

Clinton noted that the U.S. and Russia still possess more than 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons. “We do not need such large arsenals to protect our nation,” she said.

She emphasized the verification mechanism in the treaty, a key demand of the US that was resisted by Russia and was one of the sticking points that delayed completion of the deal. It will “reduce the chance for misunderstandings and miscalculations,” she told reporters.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that by helping to build trust “this treaty enhances our ability to do that which we have been charged to do – protect and defend the citizens of the United States.”

He said U.S. commanders around the world “stand solidly behind the treaty.”

Gates cautioned the treaty – and an accompanying review of nuclear posture – will require more spending to modernize America’s nuclear arsenal. At the same time, the defense secretary called it an “important milestone” in consigning Cold War nightmares to the past.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed the “historic” agreement.

He said the U.K. was committed to a world free from nuclear weapons and “stands ready” to take part in a future multilateral disarmament process.

He said: “As the Prime Minister told President (Barack) Obama when they spoke yesterday, the U.K. welcomes this agreement which is an important further step towards a world free from nuclear weapons.

“The international community must now seize the opportunity this creates for the 2010 NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Review Conference and beyond.

“That means continued efforts by all states possessing nuclear weapons to work towards their total elimination.

“It means concerted action from the international community to tackle countries like North Korea and Iran which seek to develop nuclear weapons in breach of their treaty commitments.

“And it means the safe expansion of nuclear power.”

The new treaty will also set out new verification procedures that are considered less cumbersome and expensive than those in Start.

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