Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished chairman of the committee and, of course, the distinguished senior Senator from South Carolina.
Mr. President, there is no Senate responsibility I take more seriously than the obligation we have to advise and consent on treaties. We are discussing two treaties today that mark the past and the future of arms control. It is interesting to me that they have become linked in the manner before us today. I commend the distinguished chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for his vision in this effort.
The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty is a pillar of post-cold-war security in Europe. That treaty, over a decade in negotiation and finished by President Bush in 1990, solidified NATO's victory in the cold war by dramatically reducing the size of the conventional forces arrayed against each other.
That treaty also restricted the areas on the flanks of Europe where the Soviet Union or its successors could place troops and equipment. This particular provision was one of the most difficult to negotiate because it was one of the most meaningful. By restricting the size of forces on Europe's northern and southern flanks, we greatly reduced the likelihood that the Soviet Union or its successors could conduct an effective assault on western forces.
Because of the importance of this provision, it is with great reluctance that I support the changes to the agreement before us today, which will relax these flank restrictions.
It is true that over 50,000 pieces of equipment limited by the CFE Treaty have been destroyed or removed since the treaty went into effect. Nevertheless, with the changes in the agreement regarding the flanks of Europe, we will all have to be watchful that we not slide back too far from the high standard we set for ourselves and for Russia in the original treaty.
Mr. President, I will also say that we will have to reevaluate our actions when we learn the full details of the NATO-Russia agreement just announced today. For example, I am hopeful that we did not place unilateral restrictions on our own ability to deploy troops in the potentially expanded area of NATO responsibility in exchange for Russia support for NATO expansion. I light of the changes we are making to the CFE Treaty--permitting Russia to deploy forces in areas that have been off-limits until now--such a unilateral restriction on our own ability to move troops around Europe would be shortsighted indeed.
Even with these reservations, though, I am willing to support the treaty document before us today because of condition 9, which will require the President to submit to the Senate for ratification any substantive changes to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. My support for an effective, global ballistic missile defense system greatly outweighs the concerns I may have with changes to the CFE Treaty.
Mr. President, if the CFE Treaty is a forward looking treaty that reflects the new realities of post-cold-war Europe, the ABM Treaty is an outdated document that harkens back to an era that is thankfully behind us. The ABM Treaty was with the USSR. Now that the cold war is over it is restricting the inexorable march of technology, a technology that I am convinced will make ballistic missiles obsolete.
The Clinton administration wants to bring new countries into this outmoded agreement. If the United States was limited in its ability to deploy an effective missile defense when the treaty was with Russia alone, how much more restricted will we find ourselves when there are half-a-dozen or more new members in this treaty?
The document before us today does not prejudice the Senate's action regarding the ABM Treaty. It only says that if the President wishes to permit other countries to join this treaty, then the Senate must fulfill its constitutional role to advise and consent on such a change to the treaty. Colleagues will have the opportunity at that time to debate the merits of bringing new countries into the treaty or simply letting this treaty fade into the history it represents.
While I support the latter, we aren't deciding that matter today. Today, we're simply asserting our prerogative to advise and consent on treaties. No Member of this body should be comfortable that any administration would want to make major modifications to a treaty without Senate approval.
I urge my colleagues to support the resolution of ratification before us today and assert their rights as a Member of the U.S. Senate. I commend Senator Helms once again with the wisdom and leadership, a staunch defender always, of senatorial prerogatives and U.S. national security.
I commend all of those who are going to stand for the rights of the Senate and therefore the people, to change any potential treaty that this country has committed itself to, because we will keep our treaty obligations and we must make sure that the people of our country are informed and support any changes in those treaties.
I yield back the balance of my time.