Senator Hillary Clinton pledged Tuesday that as secretary of state she would revitalize US leadership by embracing a host of treaties on arms control and climate change that the Bush administration has been reluctant to endorse.
In five hours of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she said she would revive attempts to ratify or renegotiate several international accords, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear weapons testing; the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which stops the production of fuel for nuclear weapons; and the START agreement between the United States and Russia, which expires in December. The treaty reduces stockpiles of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
In addition, Clinton said during her confirmation hearing that President-elect Barack Obama would appoint a negotiator to international efforts to halt global climate change.
“The best way to advance America’s interests in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions,” Clinton said in her opening remarks. “That isn’t a philosophical point. This is our reality.”
Her statements marked a drastic departure from the Bush administration’s broad skepticism toward treaties, and were greeted enthusiastically by Democrats and many Republicans on the committee, as well as by specialists on arms control and the environment.
“The Obama administration recognizes that to deal with international challenges like nuclear proliferation and nuclear weapons, we need greater cooperation,” said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based nonproliferation think tank. “If we are going to improve the global system, the United States is going to have to lead by example, and these three initiatives have been something that other countries expect the United states to take action on.”
However, some conservatives have already begun to campaign against the treaties, which need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to pass, saying that they bring the United States closer to world government and unwisely tie US hands.
“More senators should be educated about the sovereignty implications of these treaties,” said Steven Groves of the conservative Heritage Foundation, although he acknowledged that “it could still be a tough fight to block them.”
Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, who made his debut Tuesday as chair of the committee — a position recently relinquished by Vice President-elect Joe Biden — warmly welcomed Clinton’s pledges to take climate change seriously and made his own impassioned plea for US participation in international efforts.
“Many today do not see climate change as a national security threat, but it is,” Kerry said in his opening remarks.
Throughout the hearing, Clinton commented with confidence on a wide range of foreign policy questions.
On Iran, Clinton declined to say whether she would soon meet with Iranian officials, but said the new administration would use both sanctions and diplomacy to dissuade Tehran from continuing uranium enrichment.