THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I just concluded a productive phone call with President Medvedev. And I’m pleased to announce that after a year of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia have agreed to the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.
Since taking office, one of my highest priorities has been addressing the threat posed by nuclear weapons to the American people. And that’s why, last April in Prague, I stated America’s intention to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that’s been embraced by Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
While this aspiration will not be reached in the near future, I put forward a comprehensive agenda to pursue it -- to stop the spread of these weapons; to secure vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists; and to reduce nuclear arsenals. A fundamental part of that effort was the negotiation of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.
Furthermore, since I took office, I’ve been committed to a “reset” of our relationship with Russia. When the United States and Russia can cooperate effectively, it advances the mutual interests of our two nations, and the security and prosperity of the wider world. We’ve so far already worked together on Afghanistan. We’ve coordinated our economic efforts through the G20. We are working together to pressure Iran to meet its international obligations. And today, we have reached agreement on one of my administration’s top national security priorities -- a pivotal new arms control agreement.
In many ways, nuclear weapons represent both the darkest days of the Cold War, and the most troubling threats of our time. Today, we’ve taken another step forward by -- in leaving behind the legacy of the 20th century while building a more secure future for our children. We’ve turned words into action. We’ve made progress that is clear and concrete. And we’ve demonstrated the importance of American leadership -- and American partnership -- on behalf of our own security, and the world’s.
Broadly speaking, the new START treaty makes progress in several areas. It cuts -- by about a third -- the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia will deploy. It significantly reduces missiles and launchers. It puts in place a strong and effective verification regime. And it maintains the flexibility that we need to protect and advance our national security, and to guarantee our unwavering commitment to the security of our allies.
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. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.
I’m pleased that almost one year to the day after my last trip to Prague, the Czech Republic -- a close friend and ally of the United States -- has agreed to host President Medvedev and me on April 8th, as we sign this historic treaty. The following week, I look forward to hosting leaders from over 40 nations here in Washington, as we convene a summit to address how we can secure vulnerable nuclear materials so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists. And later this spring, the world will come together in New York to discuss how we can build on this progress, and continue to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime.
Through all these efforts, cooperation between the United States and Russia will be essential. I want to thank President Medvedev for his personal and sustained leadership as we worked through this agreement. We’ve had the opportunity to meet many times over the last year, and we both agree that we can serve the interests of our people through close cooperation.
I also want to thank my national security team, who did so much work to make this day possible. That includes the leaders with me here today -- Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen. And it includes a tireless negotiating team. It took patience. It took perseverance. But we never gave up. And as a result, the United States will be more secure, and the American people will be safer.
Finally, I look forward to continuing to work closely with Congress in the months ahead. There is a long tradition of bipartisan leadership on arms control. Presidents of both parties have recognized the necessity of securing and reducing these weapons. Statesmen like George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, and Bill Perry have been outspoken in their support of more assertive action. Earlier this week, I met with my friends John Kerry and Dick Lugar to discuss this treaty, and throughout the morning, my administration will be consulting senators -- my administration will be consulting senators from both parties as we prepare for what I hope will be a strong, bipartisan support to ratify the new START treaty.
With that, I’m going to leave you in the able hands of my Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as Secretary of Defense Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen. So I want to thank all of you for your attention.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you all very much. This is a good day for America and our security. And as President Obama just reiterated, it is one of the highest priorities of the Obama administration to pursue an agenda to reduce the threat posed by the deadliest weapons the world has ever known. President Obama set that forth in his speech at Prague last year. And today, he and President Medvedev reached an agreement to make significant and verifiable reductions in our nuclear arsenals.
Long after the Cold War’s end, the United States and Russia still possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. We do not need such large arsenals to protect our nation and our allies against the two greatest dangers we face today: nuclear proliferation and terrorism.
This treaty represents a significant step forward in our cooperation with Russia. We were committed from the beginning to reset the U.S.-Russia relationship, because we saw it as essential to making progress on our top priorities -- from counterterrorism, to nuclear security and non-proliferation.
Now, we will continue to have disagreements with our Russian friends. But this treaty is an example of deep and substantive cooperation on a matter of vital importance. And more broadly, it shows that patient, principled diplomacy can advance our national interests by producing real results, in this case results that are good for us, good for Russia, and good for global security and stability.
The treaty also shows the world -- particularly states like Iran and North Korea -- that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands. The new START treaty demonstrates our commitment to making progress toward disarmament under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the so-called NPT.
So as we uphold our commitments and strengthen the NPT, we can hold others accountable to do the same. I know that Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen will say more about the details of the treaty, but I want to make clear that we have adhered to the Russian proverb that President Reagan frequently employed, “trust, but verify.” Verification provides the transparency and builds the trust needed to reduce the chance for misunderstandings and miscalculations.
President Obama insisted on a whole of government effort to reach this result, and that’s exactly what this was. He and President Medvedev met several times and spoke often by phone. Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, General Jones worked closely with their Russian counterparts. Foreign Minister Lavrov and I met in person, most recently last week in Moscow, and we spoke on the phone too many times to count. Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller worked tirelessly in Geneva for many months as our chief negotiator. Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher, who is here with us, joined her at a crucial time to help complete the agreement, assisted very ably by our State Department expert team, including Jim Timby. Teams of people at the State Department, the White House, DOD, elsewhere worked tirelessly to make this happen.
Let me conclude by saying that I look forward to working with my former colleagues in the Senate. They will be our partners in this enterprise. I know President Obama had an excellent meeting, as he reported to you, with both Senators Kerry and Lugar. And Rose, Ellen and General Jones and others of us have briefed members along the way. I look forward to working toward ratification to bring this treaty into force.
Now it’s my great pleasure and honor to turn the podium over to my friend, Secretary Bob Gates.
SECRETARY GATES: This treaty strengthens nuclear stability. It will reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons that both Russia and the United States are permitted to deploy by a third, and maintains an effective verification regime.
America’s nuclear arsenal remains an important pillar of the U.S. defense posture, both to deter potential adversaries and to reassure more than two dozen allies and partners who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security.
But it is clear that we can accomplish these goals with fewer nuclear weapons. The reductions in this treaty will not affect the strength of our nuclear triad. Nor does this treaty limit plans to protect the United States and our allies by improving and deploying missile defense systems.
Much of the analysis that supported the U.S. negotiating position was provided by the Defense Department’s nuclear posture review, which will be released shortly.
As the number of weapons declines we will have to invest more heavily in our nuclear infrastructure in order to keep our weapons safe, secure and effective.
I look forward to working with the Congress to make sure that Departments of Defense and Energy have the funding necessary to properly accomplish this mission.
The subject of America’s nuclear deterrent and this treaty carries special personal meaning for me. My professional career began as a junior Air Force Officer under the Strategic Air Command, and my first assignment 43 years ago was at Whiteman Air Force Base, then home to 150 Minuteman ICBMs. Since 1971, I have been involved in strategic arms negotiations in different capacities at CIA and here at the NSC. And I particularly recall the day President Reagan signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Treaty, which marked the transition from arms control to disarmament. That process accelerated with START and reaches another important milestone with this treaty.
The journey we have taken from being one misstep away from mutual assured destruction to the substantial arms reductions of this new agreement is testimony to just how much the world has changed and all of the opportunities we still have to make our planet safer and more secure.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Good morning, everyone. I would only like to add that I, the Vice Chairman, and the Joint Chiefs, as well as our combatant commanders around the world, stand solidly behind this new treaty, having had the opportunity to provide our counsel, to make our recommendations, and to help shape the final agreements.
We greatly appreciate the trust and confidence placed by us -- placed in us by the President and by Secretary Gates throughout this process. And we recognize the trust and confidence this treaty helps foster in our relationship with Russia’s military -- a trust complementary to that which the President has sought to achieve between our two countries.
Indeed, I met with my Russian counterpart, General Makarov, no fewer than three times during the negotiation process. And each time we met, we grew closer not only toward our portion of the final result, but also toward a better understanding of the common challenges and opportunities our troops face every single day.
The new START deals directly with some of the most lethal of those common challenges -- our stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons -- by dramatically reducing these stockpiles. This treaty achieves a proper balance more in keeping with today’s security environment, reducing tensions even as it bolsters non-proliferation efforts. It features a much more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notifications. It protects our ability to develop a conventional global strike capability should that be required. And perhaps more critically, it allows us to deploy and maintain strategic nuclear forces -- bombers, submarines, missiles; the triad which has proven itself over the decades -- in ways best suited to meeting our security commitments.
In other words, through the trust it engenders, the cuts it requires, and the flexibility it preserves this treaty enhances our ability to do that which we have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United States. I am as confident in its success as I am in its safeguards.