Top US commander appeals for ratification of START treaty

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs in a letter to the Senate yesterday said, "I continue to believe that ratification of the New START Treaty is vital to US national security.

"Through the trust it engenders, the cuts it requires and the flexibility it preserves, this treaty enhances our ability to do that which we in the military have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United State," he said.

"I am as confident in its success as I am in its safeguards. The sooner it is ratified, the better," Mullen wrote in a letter to Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was also marked to its Ranking Member, Senator Richard Lugar.

His letter comes amidst warning from Russia that the Senate should not attempt to rewrite the arms control treaty and a day after President Barack Obama asked the Senate to pass the New START treaty at the earliest.

Top Republican Senators, including Mitch McConnell, have announced they will oppose the New START treaty signed early this year between Obama his Russian counterpart.
"This should remind every one of us that this treaty is vital to our national security and to reducing the risk of nuclear weapons," Kerry said after Mullen sent his letter.

"The treaty has the full support of your uniformed military, and we all support ratification. Throughout its negotiations, Secretaries Clinton and Gates ensured that professional military perspectives were thoroughly considered.

"During the development of the treaty, I was personally involved to include two face-to-face negotiating sessions and several conversations with my counterpart, the chief of the Russian General Staff, General Makarov," Mullen said.

The White House believes that before Congress leaves town, that the Senate will ratify the new START treaty, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been closely monitoring events on the Capitol Hill and has made a number of calls to Senators on both sides of the aisle over the past several days, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said.

"She's had meetings with the Senate leadership and individual senators, to try to assure them that the treaty is in the national interest and that, you know, concerns about anything ranging from impact on missile defense to the verification regime to try to satisfy all of those questions," Crowley said.

Clinton is poised to continue to engage any senator with questions, as US goes through the final couple of days of debate, he said, adding "obviously, we're looking to the cloture vote tomorrow in the Senate, but continue to believe strongly that -- this is the time for the Senate to act and ratify the treaty."

"It is a national security priority. It's so urgent that we are able to pass this treaty because our relationship is Russia is so important. It's not just about missile defense. It's about many other issues such as how we're going to deal with Iran and other national security priorities.

"And that's fundamental to our relationship with Russia and how it's going to go forward," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in an interview to MSNBC.On Sunday, Obama had written a letter to the Senate leadership asking them to pass the New START treaty as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Russia on Monday had warned the Senate not to rewrite the arms control treaty."I can only underscore that the strategic nuclear arms treaty, worked out on the strict basis of parity, in our view fully answers to the national interests of Russia and the United States. It cannot be opened up and become the subject of new negotiations," Sergey V Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told the Interfax news agency.

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