In December 2010, the U.S. Senate ratified a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, a significant breakthrough that requires a scaling back of Cold War-era nuclear arsenals and the resumption of mutual inspections that lapsed in 2009.
Working behind-the-scenes on this important arms control treaty was Paul Dean, a State Department lawyer who is credited as one of the legal architects of the accord. During a two-year period, Dean participated in the bilateral negotiations, helped draft the treaty, wrote a 200-page legal analysis, provided legal counsel and solutions to vexing issues during the Senate ratification debate, and then worked to ensure final Russian approval.
“You have negotiators that discuss the concepts, but you then need someone to frame it into a binding legal document—that’s what Paul did,” said Harold Hongju Koh, the State Department legal advisor.
Newell Highsmith, an assistant legal adviser at the State Department, said Dean had “great mastery and confidence of the subject matter,” and worked closely with various U.S. agencies, including the intelligence and defense communities. He said Dean also developed a rapport with his Russian counterparts, solved problems for policy negotiators and later gained the confidence of members of the Senate during the politically-charged ratification debate.
“He has a willingness to take ownership and make himself the go-to person, the person everyone goes to for advice,” said Highsmith. “Paul had the right creativity to do that and not undermine principals, while working on complex and politically touchy issues.”
Dean spent six months in Geneva taking part in the negotiations with the Russians, serving as one of two legal counsels to the large U.S. inter-agency team. His duties included providing advice on the legal ramifications of various proposals and options, and ensuring that language in the English and Russian versions of the treaty carried the same legal meaning.
After negotiations were completed, Dean worked to complete a transmittal package for the U.S. Senate, finding creative ways to address senatorial concerns while protecting presidential prerogatives. Through the summer of 2010, he worked on answers to nearly 1,000 written questions from senators, prepared administration witnesses for hearings and negotiated with key senators and staff to find solutions to several last-minute challenges.
“Many of the proposals from senators raised legal and policy questions, requiring Paul to devise clever on-the-spot solutions that were acceptable to parties with vastly different interests,” said Koh.
Dean said getting the treaty through the Senate was, at times, “pretty confrontational,” and he saw his role as stepping in with legal advice and ideas to “moderate the process.”
“There was a vigorous debate about the substance of the treaty, in particular, the treaty’s impact on U.S. missile defenses. I walked Senate staff through the treaty’s detailed provisions to help assuage their concerns,” said Dean.
After the 71-26 ratification vote, Dean worked closely with his Russian counterparts to help ensure approval by the Russian legislature. Again, he worked to alleviate Russian concerns, answering questions about the tough debate on Capitol Hill and some amendments that were made to the Senate’s Resolution of Advice and Consent. He engaged in a series of direct talks with the Russian legal adviser, helping persuade officials in Moscow to take important U.S. concerns into account and showing that the essential obligations of the treaty had not changed.
Dean began his legal career at a prestigious Washington corporate law firm just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an event he said inspired in him a sense of obligation to devote his energy and talents to a greater purpose.
“I have a clear memory of talking with friends about foreign policy issues and thinking, ‘we should be a part of that,’” said Dean, who began working at the State Department in 2003.
Highsmith said Dean has proven himself to be a creative thinker, and someone who could “see problems before they arise.”
“He was the lawyer best suited to work the delicate national security and political issues, resolve those issues and to help ensure the treaty would be ratified,” said Highsmith. “He is what service to America is all about.”