Senator Alexander on START Ratification

Senator Alexander on START Ratification

By On the Record - April 12, 2010

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama and the Russian president just signed a new strategic arms reduction treaty, but the treaty needs to be ratified by the U.S. senate. Is that going to happen? Moments ago, Republican senator, Lamar Alexander, went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: It's nice to see you, sir.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R-TENN.: Nice to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Last week, the president was in Prague and signed a treaty with the Russian president to start the treat. Is it going to be ratified by the U.S. senate this year?

ALEXANDER: No, not this year. That's my view. Now, it's mono step, but I think a good step in the right direction, this is a step Nixon, Reagan, first Bush, and second Bush all have taken us. We take us down to 1500 deployed nuclear warheads that ought to be enough to blow everybody to kingdom come if we chose to do it. But it took a year and a half to do it. We have a lot of questions. We need to get the right answers and then it might get 67 votes.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Why wouldn't you, at least push it. I realize that you're in the Minority party, but why not push it for ratification, what did you need to know?

ALEXANDER: We can go to work on it. But, it's not like the health care bill we want to read it. We've got -- and it takes 67 votes to pass it. So, we can insist on that. We don't even get the whole thing until May. And now, we have the Supreme Court nomination to deal with which is going to take most of the next three or four months. We need to know, can we verify? There has been new technology since the start one treaty.

Will the administration upgrade our own nuclear weapons that's apart of what we want also see and done at the same time? Can we still build our missiles of our own? There are a lot of questions we need to ask. It took 431 days to ratify the treaty in 1991. It'll probably take about the same amount of time to do this one.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have a pretty good understanding what will happen if it is ratified. What I don't know, though, is that suppose the United States Senate doesn't ratify it, what would that mean?

ALEXANDER: For right now, the countries have agreed since the old one expired in December just to continue with the process that's going on between Russia and the United States. A lot is going on. You know, we're taking their old nuclear weapons and taking them to Oakridge, Tennessee in many cases, breaking them down to low level radioactive material that we can use in our nuclear power plants, for example. So, President Bush and this administration have continued with the old agreement until we can deal with this agreement.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, we have, as you know, a number of nuclear warheads that could blow us all to kingdom come multiple times. With this treaty, as you understand it now and I realized you need to read it, would weaken us in any way? Do you foresee that?

ALEXANDER: If it does, we shouldn't approve it. I mean, one of the principle things we need to do is to make sure we don't weaken our ability to defend ourselves.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many do we need, though? How many warheads do we need?

ALEXANDER: 1500 would be enough, but the question is, are they modern enough? That's one of the questions that many of us have. We haven't upgraded our weapons system in a long time. Two, will we know what the Russians are doing? President Reagan used to say trust and verify what was trust and verify in 1991 might be very different in 2011 because of the change in technology.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any reason to believe that our existing warheads aren't modern enough or would not fulfill any purpose should the horrible, unexpected terrible event of using them?

ALEXANDER: There's plenty of reason to believe that. In fact, a very high level commission, a bipartisan commission, former Secretary Perry was on it, but Clinton's defense secretary who said that we have some real problems with our current nuclear weapons. They need to be upgraded. And we need to make sure they're working. And one of the principle things we want to make sure of is that we have an ambitious program to make sure that our weapons that we have work while we're agreeing to reduce the number that we have.

VAN SUSTEREN: How optimistic are you that the president's summit today here in Washington, nuclear summit, is one that will advance the United States' interests? Especially, that there's some criticism, for instance, that North Korea and Iran aren't part of it. That's one criticism understandably why they're not part of it, and secondly that India and Pakistan doesn't seem to be a huge issue in this summit when those two have been at each other's throats and are both nuclear weapons countries.

ALEXANDER: I want it to work. I think every American should want it to work. Nuclear terrorism is a big issue. This sum is on the right subject. Now, the question is, we want it to be more meaningful than health care summit or the climate change summit because something actually come out of it. By that, I mean, would Russia and China agree to reinstitute the idea of saying to Iran, you don't need a facility to run a nuclear power plant, we'll rent low level uranium to you and then take it back when you are through with it, then we wouldn't have an issue.

Or will Pakistan agree to make more secure its facilities? There's some talk today the Ukraine will give up its highly enriched uranium that was left over from the Soviet Union, maybe we can take that to Oakridge, plant it down, and use it on a nuclear plant. So, I want it to work. And we'll wait to see if it does.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Use of nuclear power, I know that you're a great advocate of this. Why?

ALEXANDER: This summit should take the time to look around the world and see that there are 16 countries building 55 new nuclear reactors and make sure that that's done in a way that doesn't create any problem. The way to do that would be the way South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to do. South Korea, basically, enriches uranium to a low level enough for a power plant, very different from a bomb, rents it to the United Arab Emirates, and when they finish with it, takes it back. We should be building a lot of nuclear power plants around the world. We need clean energy.

If we were going to war in the United States, we wouldn't put our nuclear navy in moth balls and start using sailboats. Since we need clean energy, we shouldn't put our nuclear power plants and moth balls and use windmills but that's exactly what we've been doing. We've had an effect to National Windmill Policy, because we haven't built a new nuclear power plant in this country in 30 years, and it's 70 percent of clean electricity, and we invented it. We should lead the world in it.

We could use this summit to help -- to make sure that the low level enrichment of uranium that is used to these plants, China is building one every three months now is done in such a way that there is no risk that we confuse it with a nuclear weapon.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Greta.



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