- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A group of four retired military officials and senators have expressed their support for the new START agreement as the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia makes its way through the Senate.

During a teleconference call Monday, they said the treaty is a necessary step toward global security in an increasingly complicated world.

“Any time we use nuclear weapons, it is a failure of national security,” said former Sen. Gary Hart, Colorado Democrat, adding that nuclear disarmament must begin with the United States and Russia, which together hold 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Besides Mr. Hart, the group includes former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican; retired Navy Adm. William Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Arlen “Dick” Jameson, former vice commander of strategic command.

Their teleconference marked the launch of the Consensus for American Security, a bipartisan initiative promoting a national security strategy focused on 21st-century threats with the backing of more than 30 senior former military and government officials.

“Things like this should always be above politics,” Mr. Hart said. “We owe it to our children.”

However, some critics of the treaty, such as former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Robert Joseph, have said it does not provide complete freedom in monitoring Russia’s nuclear activities, as its advocates have said. He noted several potential gaps, particularly at the missile manufacturing facility Votkinsk.

“I believe the Senate can play a very constructive role by ensuring that there is no room for ambiguity, through amendment or other means,” Mr. Joseph said at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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