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Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain on Nuclear Security, 27
Remarks By John McCain on Nuclear Security May 27, 2008.
ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain delivered the following remarks
as prepared for delivery at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado,
today at 10:00 a.m. MDT (12:00 p.m. EDT):
For much of our history, the world considered the United States a young
country. Today, we are the world's oldest constitutional democracy,
yet we remain a young nation. We still possess the attributes of youth
-- spirit, energy, vitality, and creativity. America will always
be young as long as we are looking forward, and leading, to a better world.
Innovative and energetic American leadership is as vital to the world's
future today as it was during the Cold War. I have spent my life
in public service working to ensure our great nation is strong enough
to counter those who wish us ill. To be an effective leader in the
21st century, however, it is not enough to be strong. We must be
a model for others. That means not only pursuing our own interests
but recognizing that we share interests with peoples across our planet.
There is such a thing as good international citizenship, and America must
be a good citizen of the world—leading the way to address the danger
of global warming and preserve our environment, strengthening existing
international institutions and helping to build new ones, and engaging
the world in a broad dialogue on the threat of violent extremists, who
would, if they could, use weapons of mass destruction to attack us and
Today we also need to apply our spirit of optimism, energy, and innovation
to a crisis that has been building for decades but is now coming to a
head: the global spread of nuclear weapons. Forty-five years
ago, President John F. Kennedy asked the American people to imagine what
the world would look like if nuclear weapons spread beyond the few powers
that then held them to the many other nations that sought them.
"Stop and think for a moment," he said, "what it would
mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries
large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered
throughout the world." If that happened, he warned, "there
would be no rest for anyone."
Kennedy's warning resonates more today than ever before. North Korea
pursues a nuclear weapons program to the point where, today, the dictator
Kim Jong-Il has tested a nuclear weapon, and almost certainly possesses
several more nuclear warheads. And it has shared its nuclear and
missile know-how with others, including Syria. It is a vital national
interest for the North Korean nuclear program to be completely, verifiably
and irreversibly ended. Likewise, we have seen Iran marching with single-minded
determination toward the same goal. President Ahmadinejad has threatened
to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and represents a threat to every
country in the region – one we cannot ignore or minimize.
Other nations have begun to wonder whether they, too, need to have such
weapons, if only in self-defense. As a result, we could find ourselves
in a world where a dozen or more nations, small and large, stable and
unstable, responsible and irresponsible, have viable nuclear weapons programs.
But there is a flip side to President Kennedy's warning. We should
stop and think for a moment not only of the perils of a world awash with
nuclear weapons, but also of the more hopeful alternative – a world
in which there are far fewer such weapons than there are today, and in
which proliferation, instability, and nuclear terrorism are far less likely.
This is the world it is our responsibility to build.
There is no simple answer to the problem. If you look back over
the past two decades, I don't think any of us, Republican or Democrat,
can take much satisfaction in what we've accomplished to control nuclear
proliferation. Today, some people seem to think they've discovered
a brand new cause, something no one before them ever thought of.
Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile
governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran,
as if we haven't tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the
past two decades. Others think military action alone can achieve
our goals, as if military actions were not fraught with their own terrible
risks. While the use of force may be necessary, it can only be as
a last resort not a first step. The truth is we will only address
the terrible prospect of the worldwide spread of nuclear arms if we transcend
our partisan differences, combine our energies, learn from our past mistakes,
and seek practical and effective solutions.
I'd like to suggest some steps we should take to chart a common vision
for the future. It is a vision in which the United States returns
to a tradition of innovative thinking, broad-minded internationalism,
and determined diplomacy, backed by America's great and enduring power
to lead. It is a vision not of the United States acting alone, but
building and participating in a community of nations all drawn together
in this vital common purpose. It is a vision of a responsible America,
dedicated to an enduring peace based on freedom.
A quarter of a century ago, President Ronald Reagan declared, "our
dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the
face of the Earth." That is my dream, too. It is a distant
and difficult goal. And we must proceed toward it prudently and
pragmatically, and with a focused concern for our security and the security
of allies who depend on us. But the Cold War ended almost twenty
years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically
the number of nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals. It is time
for the United States to show the kind of leadership the world expects
from us, in the tradition of American presidents who worked to reduce
the nuclear threat to mankind.
Our highest priority must be to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons
will ever be used. Such weapons, while still important to deter
an attack with weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies,
represent the most abhorrent and indiscriminate form of warfare known
to man. We do, quite literally, possess the means to destroy all
of mankind. We must seek to do all we can to ensure that nuclear
weapons will never again be used.
While working closely with allies who rely on our nuclear umbrella for
their security, I would ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to engage in a comprehensive
review of all aspects of our nuclear strategy and policy. I would
keep an open mind on all responsible proposals. At the same time,
we must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust
missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of
defending the United States and our allies. But I will seek to reduce
the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number possible consistent
with our security requirements and global commitments. Today we
deploy thousands of nuclear warheads. It is my hope to move as rapidly
as possible to a significantly smaller force.
While we have serious differences, with the end of the Cold War, Russia
and the United States are no longer mortal enemies. As our two countries
possess the overwhelming majority of the world's nuclear weapons, we have
a special responsibility to reduce their number. I believe we should
reduce our nuclear forces to the lowest level we judge necessary, and
we should be prepared to enter into a new arms control agreement with
Russia reflecting the nuclear reductions I will seek. Further, we
should be able to agree with Russia on binding verification measures based
on those currently in effect under the START Agreement, to enhance confidence
and transparency. In close consultation with our allies, I would
also like to explore ways we and Russia can reduce – and hopefully
eliminate – deployments of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.
I also believe we should work with Russia to build confidence in our missile
defense program, including through such initiatives as the sharing of
early warning data and prior notification of missile launches.
There are other areas in which we can work in partnership with Russia
to strengthen protections against weapons of mass destruction. I
would seriously consider Russia's recent proposal to work together to
globalize the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. I would
also redouble our common efforts to reduce the risk that nuclear, chemical,
or biological weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly
I believe we should also begin a dialogue with China on strategic and
nuclear issues. We have important shared interests with China and
should begin discussing ways to achieve the greatest possible transparency
and cooperation on nuclear force structure and doctrine. We should
work with China to encourage conformity with the practices of the other
four nuclear weapon states recognized in the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
including working toward nuclear arsenal reductions and toward a moratorium
on the production of additional fissile material.
I believe we must also address nuclear testing. As president I will
pledge to continue America's current moratorium on testing, but also begin
a dialogue with our allies, and with the U.S. Senate, to identify ways
we can move forward to limit testing in a verifiable manner that does
not undermine the security or viability of our nuclear deterrent.
This would include taking another look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
to see what can be done to overcome the shortcomings that prevented it
from entering into force. I opposed that treaty in 1999, but said
at the time I would keep an open mind about future developments.
I would only support the development of any new type of nuclear weapon
that is absolutely essential for the viability of our deterrent, that
results in making possible further decreases in the size of our nuclear
arsenal, and furthers our global nuclear security goals. I would
cancel all further work on the so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator,
a weapon that does not make strategic or political sense.
Finally, we cannot achieve our non-proliferation goals on our own.
We must strengthen existing international treaties and institutions to
combat proliferation, and develop new ones when necessary.
We should move quickly with other nations to negotiate a Fissile Material
Cut-off Treaty to end production of the most dangerous nuclear materials.
The international community needs to improve its ability to interdict
the spread of nuclear weapons and material under the Proliferation Security
Initiative. And we need to increase funding for our own non-proliferation
efforts, including the Cooperative Threat Reduction programs established
by the landmark Nunn-Lugar legislation, and ensure the highest possible
standards of security for existing nuclear materials.
In 2010, an international conference will meet to review the Non-Proliferation
Treaty. If I am President, I will seize that opportunity to strengthen
and enhance all aspects of the non-proliferation regime. We need
to strengthen enforcement of the so-called "atoms for peace"
bargain by insisting that countries that receive the benefits of peaceful
nuclear cooperation must return or dismantle what they receive if they
violate or withdraw from the NPT. We need to increase IAEA funding
and enhance the intelligence support it receives. We also need to
reverse the burden of proof when it comes to discovering whether a nation
is cheating on its NPT commitments. The IAEA shouldn't have to play cat-and-mouse
games to prove a country is in compliance. It is for suspected violators
to prove they are in compliance. We should establish a requirement
by the UN Security Council that international transfers of sensitive nuclear
technology must be disclosed in advance to an international authority
such as the IAEA, and further require that undisclosed transfers be deemed
illicit and subject to interdiction. Finally, to enforce treaty
obligations, IAEA member states must be willing to impose sanctions on
nations that seek to withdraw from it.
We need to enlist all willing partners in the global battle against nuclear
proliferation. I support the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord as
a means of strengthening our relationship with the world's largest democracy,
and further involving India in the fight against proliferation.
We should engage actively with both India and Pakistan to improve the
security of nuclear stockpiles and weapons materials, and construct a
secure global nuclear order that eliminates the likelihood of proliferation
and the possibility of nuclear conflict.
As we improve the national and multilateral tools to catch and reverse
illicit nuclear programs, I am convinced civilian nuclear energy can be
a critical part of our fight against global warming. Civilian nuclear
power provides a way for the United States and other responsible nations
to achieve energy independence and reduce our dependence on foreign oil
and gas. But in order to take advantage of civilian nuclear energy,
we must do a better job of ensuring it remains civilian. Some nations
use the pretense of civilian nuclear programs as cover for nuclear weapons
programs. We need to build an international consensus that exposes
this deception, and holds nations accountable for it. We cannot
continue allowing nations to enrich and reprocess uranium, ostensibly
for civilian purposes, and stand by impotently as they develop weapons
The most effective way to prevent this deception is to limit the further
spread of enrichment and reprocessing. To persuade countries
to forego enrichment and reprocessing, I would support international guarantees
of nuclear fuel supply to countries that renounce enrichment and reprocessing,
as well as the establishment of multinational nuclear enrichment centers
in which they can participate. Nations that seek nuclear fuel for
legitimate civilian purposes will be able to acquire what they need under
international supervision. This is one suggestion Russia and others
have made to Iran. Unfortunately, the Iranian government has so
far rejected this idea. Perhaps with enough outside pressure and
encouragement, they can be persuaded to change their minds before it is
I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear
fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might
otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is
even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary
to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain
This is a long list of steps we need to take. It is long because
there is no single answer to this crisis, and there are no easy answers.
It is long because no nation can meet this dire challenge alone and none
can be indifferent to its outcome. The United States cannot and
will not stop the spread of nuclear weapons by unilateral action.
We must lead concerted and persistent multilateral efforts. As powerful
as we are, America's ability to defend ourselves and our allies against
the threat of nuclear attack depends on our ability to encourage effective
international cooperation. We must strengthen the accords and institutions
that make such cooperation possible. No problem we face poses a
greater threat to us and the world than nuclear proliferation. In
a time when followers of a hateful and remorseless ideology are willing
to destroy themselves to destroy us, the threat of suicide bombers with
the means to wreak incomprehensible devastation should call the entire
world to action. The civilized nations of the world must act as
one or we will suffer consequences once thought remote when the threat
of mutually assured destruction could deter responsible states from thinking
Americans have always risen to the challenges of their time. And
we have always done so successfully not by hiding from history, but by
making history; by encouraging a sometimes reluctant world to follow our
lead, and defend civilization from old mistakes and old animosities, and
the folly of relying on policies that no longer keep us safe. I
want to keep the country I love and have served all my life secure in
our freedom. I want us to rise to the challenges of our times, as
generations before us rose to theirs. It is incumbent on America,
more than any other nation on earth, to lead in building the foundations
for a stable and enduring peace, a peace built on the strength of our
commitment to it, on the transformative ideals on which we were founded,
on our ability to see around the corner of history, and on our courage
and wisdom to make new and better choices. No matter how dangerous
the threats we face in our day, it still remains within our power to make
in our time another, better world than we inherited. And that, my
friends, is what I am running for President to do.
Source: John McCain website, www.johnmccain.com.
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