Merkley, Warren, Gillibrand, Markey, Senators Introduce Bill to Prevent Nuclear Arms Race

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), today announced the introduction of the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018, new legislation that would stop the United States from entering into a 21st Century nuclear arms race. Merkley and Markey are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Warren and Gillibrand serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“President Trump’s reckless decision to pull the U.S. out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty alienates us from our allies and risks returning us to the Cold War postures of yesterday,” said Merkley. “A new nuclear arms race would be costly to our treasury and dangerous for the world. Today, we are coming together to send a message: Congress must not fund new ground-launched or ballistic missiles that will fuel a dangerous arms race across the globe. Instead, President Trump should convene U.S. allies at the G-20 Summit later this week to develop a unified approach to resolve Russia’s violation of the Treaty.”  

“Instead of scrapping a nuclear arms control treaty negotiated by President Reagan that makes America safer, the Trump Administration should listen to our European allies and stick to this agreement while working to get Russia back into compliance,” said Warren. “Withdrawing from the INF Treaty is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s dangerous and costly embrace of nuclear weapons, and the Prevention of Arms Race Act would help reverse this misguided policy.”    

“An arms race would endanger the entire world and threaten every single person in our country, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that President Trump does not start one. Now that President Trump has announced his intent to unilaterally withdraw from a bipartisan weapons treaty with Russia, without consulting Congress or our allies, the Prevention of Arms Race Act is more important than ever,” said Gillibrand. “If the President proceeds with withdrawal, it would further damage our relationships with our allies, and Russia would not be legally constrained from deploying larger numbers of their previously illegal missiles. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to prevent a new arms race, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep New Yorkers and all Americans safe.”

“Pulling out of the INF Treaty plays squarely into Russia’s hands while undermining America’s security and betraying our NATO allies,” said Markey. “Without question, Russia is violating the INF Treaty. But threatening American withdrawal will not increase our negotiating leverage; it only falls hook, line, and sinker for Putin’s predictable attempts to goad the United States into justifying Russian noncompliance. The Trump administration needs to work more closely with our NATO allies to force Russia back into compliance. And as the chance of a confrontation between American and Chinese forces rises the Indo-Pacific, it makes little sense to add further ambiguity over whether U.S. missiles stationed around the region are nuclear-armed. This legislation will help ensure that we don’t match two major adversaries missile-for-missile, trigger a new nuclear arms race, and incur unacceptable amounts of risk in an already tenuous security environment.”

On October 20, 2018, President Trump announced his intention to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. The INF was originally signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. 

The United States first declared Russia to be in violation of the Treaty in 2014; experts agree it is critical that the United States continue to work to bring Russia back into compliance and hold it accountable for its violation. However, the Trump Administration’s move puts the possibility of bringing Russia back into compliance with the treaty further out of reach. The unilateral U.S. withdrawal of the INF Treaty also fails to achieve the President’s first objective of eliminating Russia’s violating missile; instead, it frees Russia to deploy greater quantities of nuclear weapons to both America’s and Europe’s detriment. And withdrawal will not achieve the second stated objective of eliminating China’s expansive arsenal of intermediate-range missiles; rather, it will end any hopes of expanding the Treaty to China and to other countries.

The INF Treaty permanently led to the elimination of entire classes of U.S. and Russian nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles – 2,692 in total – supported by on-site inspections that allowed both sides to “trust but verify” compliance with the Treaty. President Trump made the decision to pull out without proper consultation with Congress – a co-equal branch of government – and over the objections of U.S. NATO allies who had, just months earlier, declared that the INF Treaty “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018 prohibits funding for a U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile – with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers – until the Trump Administration provides a report that meets five specific conditions. That report would be required to: 

1)      Identify a U.S. ally formally willing to host such a system;

2)      Detail recent diplomatic efforts to bring Russia back into compliance with the Treaty;

3)      Assess the risk to U.S. national security and that of our allies stemming from Russia being able to deploy greater numbers of intermediate range missiles;

4)     Identify what programs the United States would need to pursue to offset additional Russian capabilities and at what cost;

5)      Detail the costs to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the ability to maintain consensus within the NATO Alliance should the INF Treaty collapse. 

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Senator Merkley’s bipartisan resolution, S.Res. 562, Expressing the sense of the Senate that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) continues to make an invaluable contribution to United States and international security.” This resolution is cosponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and passed out of the Committee with unanimous support. S.Res. 562, which now goes to the Senate floor, calls upon the Trump administration to avert a potential arms race with Russia by working to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until 2026 and urges diplomatic means to resolve Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty.  

Click here for the full text of the bill.