Students from Belmont University in Nashville had an opportunity to discuss the prospects for ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller in a conference call on October 6, 2010. The event was part of a State Department public outreach program aimed at sharing the Obama Administration’s vision for decreasing the threat of nuclear weapons in the world.
The “conference call,” organized by the Tennessee World Affairs Council (TN WAC) and Belmont University, gave students an opportunity to pose questions about the treaty and strategic arms policies with the United States’ chief negotiator of the New START treaty. Professor Susan Jellissen of Belmont’s Political Science Department and Rick Getsay, a Belmont student working as an intern at the Council this semester, were instrumental in putting together the student’s participation in the conference call.
Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Verification, talked for about an hour with several groups, including the Belmont students. She provided detailed responses to questions posed by Caroline Barnard and John Coker, speaking on behalf of the Belmont students.
Barnard asked about the rise of China and increases in its nuclear weapons inventory and implications for America if a bilateral treaty with the Russian Federation limited the size of the U.S. arsenal. The Assistant Secretary noted the size of American and Russian nuclear inventories, together about 90% of the world’s nuclear arms, far exceeded China’s likely weapons stockpiles for the foreseeable future.
Coker inquired about Russian military provocations in recent years, such as strategic bomber exercises near American shores, and their implications for the treaty prospects. Gottemoeller responded that limiting nuclear weapons, reducing Russian and U.S. inventories, was in America’s best interest, and although the U.S. government was mindful of Russian military deployments and training there was a history of negotiating mutually beneficial arms control treaties during more tense times in the Cold War.
Professor Jellissen noted the conference call came at an opportune time as many of her students were working on these issues in their coursework. Patrick Ryan, President of the Tennessee World Affairs Council, said the conference call was among the ad hoc opportunities that were possible for Belmont students through the Council’s new partnership with the University. The Council sponsors programs and delivers resources to the community and schools to enhance understanding of international affairs. Belmont’s Center for International Business and the Council recently joined in a partnership to provide global awareness education opportunities on campus and in the community, from an office in the College of Business Administration.