Few military men carry more weight on both sides of the aisle than General Colin Powell, so after the President's meeting with him on national security issues and General Powell's other passion of education, many were eager to hear what he had to say. The President called him "a great statesman and a great public servant" as well as "a great friend and a great counselor" and reiterated his own case for ratification of the New START nuclear treaty with Russia before General Powell said a few words:
The President noted the issues that we discussed with a particular focus on the New START treaty. I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible.
I have been involved, as the President noted, in arms control negotiations and the ratification of arms control negotiations and treaties for the last 25 years. And what is fascinating about this whole process to me is that 25 years ago, the Soviet Union and the United States each had an inventory of something like 28,000, 29,000 nuclear weapons. As a result of the arms control process and the end of the Cold War and change in the world situation, those numbers have been reduced by over 80 percent, so they’re down now under 10,000.
One of the reasons we were able to do this in a way that was transparent with both sides confident in the process was because of the arms control agreement -- whether it was INF Treaty or START I or START II that were ratified, the Moscow Treaty -- so many other treaties that came along to give us stability, to give us transparency, to give us visibility into what each side was doing. As a result of these treaties we have both benefited -- both the Russian Federation now and the United States of America, but the world has benefitted by having fewer of these horrible weapons in existence.
And we hope that we can continue this process. New START is important because it continues this process. And it’s especially important because at the end of last year, we lost the verification system that we had under START I. And this is the first time in all these years where we don’t have these procedures in place. So we’re not sure exactly what’s going on within the Russian Federation; they’re not exactly sure what’s going on in the United States of America.
And I think the most important feature of New START is to put in place the verification regime again. It will be a little different than the START I verification system, but it is more than adequate to make sure that we know what they are doing and they know what we are doing, and it has been so identified as being adequate by our intelligence community.
The number of warheads reduced is modest but nevertheless significant. It continues the downward trend. And so I fully support it.
And you’ll see tomorrow morning in -- hopefully in The Washington Post an op-ed piece signed by me, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Baker and Secretary Kissinger, former Secretaries, then former Secretary Eagleburger that once again shows we as a group of Republican former Secretaries of State believe that this treaty is in the best interest of the United States of America, best interest of the world and frankly the best interest of the Russian Federation.