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Public Papers - 1991 - July

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on the Completion of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks Treaty


The completion of START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, marked by today's signing ceremony, fulfills the challenge undertaken 9 years ago by Presidents Reagan and Brezhnev. That challenge was to find a way not only to limit, but actually to reduce, the number of nuclear weapons deployed by our two nations, and to do so in a way that improves stability and reduces the risk of war.

During the nearly 50 years since the first nuclear weapon was developed, the world has witnessed the creation and deployment of ever increasing numbers of strategic nuclear weapons. Today marks the beginning of a process that reverses that trend.

For the first time in the history of arms control, this treaty will achieve substantial reductions in the strategic nuclear forces deployed by both sides. Even more important, the START treaty will strengthen strategic stability in three key ways:

-- First, it concentrates reductions on the most threatening and destabilizing systems. The reductions will amount to 40 to 50 percent of the total number of strategic missile warheads deployed today, and fully one-half of all Soviet heavy ICBM's.

-- Second, START encourages each side to restructure its strategic forces in ways that make them less threatening and more survivable. The treaty will ban new types of heavy ICBM's and encourage greater reliance on heavy bombers, and on SLBM's and ICBM's with fewer warheads per missile.

-- Third, START includes a wide variety of unprecedented and demanding verification measures designed to help ensure compliance with the treaty. These measures also help build mutual confidence and reduce uncertainty. They include a ban on the encryption of data transmitted during ballistic missile flight tests, an extensive exchange of information on the size and composition of each side's strategic forces, 12 different types of onsite inspections, and specialized monitoring of mobile ICBM production.

As we work toward lowering the risk of nuclear war between our nations, we must ensure that our strategic forces continue to enhance deterrence. For that reason, START allows the modernization of strategic forces within very well defined limits.

We have taken many bold steps in arms control in the past few years. The INF Treaty has eliminated a whole class of nuclear weapons. The CFE Treaty will establish a conventional balance at lower levels and erase the threat of a short-warning war in Europe. Now, START will produce stabilizing reductions in strategic nuclear weapons and reduce the danger of nuclear war.

While some may seek to judge this treaty in terms of who won or who lost on this or that issue, the right answer is that both our nations, and indeed all the nations of the world, have won in terms of greater security and stability.

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