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Murkowski to Support New START

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced today that she will vote to approve ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, known as New START:

"After much study and discussion, I have decided to support ratification of the New START treaty, viewing it as a modest step forward in our efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war. For the United States, it maintains our strategic or long range nuclear weapons capability, while also allowing the U.S. to return to on-the-ground verification of Russia's nuclear stockpile.

"As Alaska's senior senator, it was important to know that ratification will have no effect on missile defense - specifically, whether ratification would preclude the United States from expanding either the number of missile interceptors at Fort Greely or the number of missile fields. This is an issue I raised in recent days in discussions with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Missile Defense Agency Director LTG Patrick O'Reilly and other senior administration officials. The answers I've received to both questions is 'NO.'

"Just this morning, in response to my concerns, I received a letter signed by LTG Gen. O'Reilly and James N. Miller, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, addressing missile defense and Fort Greely in particular.

"The letter, in part, says that the New START treaty 'does not constrain the U.S. ability to develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses possible to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our Allies.  Nor does the Treaty increase the costs of doing so.  We retain full freedom to develop and deploy missile defenses at Fort Greely, as everywhere else.  The Treaty in no way limits our ability to sustain our current thirty GBIs, to complete construction of missile field 2, to update or build new missile fields as necessary, or more generally to expand and modernize our missile defenses both qualitatively and quantitatively in the future.'"

Murkowski concluded: "While a step forward, the treaty overall is not transformational. It doesn't address the issue of tactical nuclear weapons -- also known as battlefield weapons or suitcase bombs - or the risk of nuclear weapons development in rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. Although these were outside the scope of the treaty, there is the expectation that ratification of START offers an incremental benefit to our diplomatic efforts to persuade Russia to act as a responsible global citizen with respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions. Our plans are to work with Russia in the development of a missile defense system which will provide greater protection for Europe."

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