Proposed by President Ronald Reagan, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991. This reduced the number of strategic, long-range nuclear warheads that each country could deploy to about 6,000.
Today, the United States and Russia still hold about 95 percent of all nuclear weapons, many of them on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired in minutes. Maintaining huge nuclear weapons arsenals today contributes to the risk of an accidental nuclear war or nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START on April 8, but it must be ratified in the Senate. Hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee are under way. We are fortunate to have on that committee Sen. Bob Casey, who has demonstrated himself to be an outspoken advocate for nuclear weapons reduction and nonproliferation.
There is widespread consensus for ratifying the New START. Supporters include leading military and foreign policy figures such as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and many others. There has been bipartisan support for such treaties from all presidents since Reagan and the Senate has almost always agreed, approving each START by large, bipartisan margins
.In the current polarized climate, we may not be so fortunate. We need Sen. Casey to enlist his Republican colleagues to join him in seizing this crucial moment to assure completion of our unfinished business.
The writer is Western Pennsylvania coordinator of the PA Zero Nuclear Arms Campaign.