US Senate approves Russia nuclear treaty
US senators have voted to ratify a much-delayed nuclear arms treaty that will pave the way for new cuts in American and Russian nuclear arsenals.
After months of wrangling in the Senate, where it needed a two-thirds majority, the New Start treaty was passed by a vote of 71 to 26.The treaty requires the US and Russia to cut their deployed nuclear warheads by some 30%.It must still pass Russia's parliament, a move expected next spring.Despite lengthy protests from a number of congressional Republicans, 13 Republican Senators voted with the Democrats during Wednesday's vote.Top Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Jon Kyl, had opposed ratification of the treaty.But correspondents say the ratification will be seen as a foreign policy success for US President Barack Obama.After the vote, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said: "This historic Senate vote makes our country safer and moves the world further away from the danger of nuclear disaster.
"The winners are not defined by party or ideology. The winners are the American people, who are safer with fewer Russian missiles aimed at them, and who benefit knowing that our co-operation with Russia in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions and supplying our troops in Afghanistan can be strengthened."Russian 're-set' The New Start treaty, which will replace its lapsed predecessor, Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), was signed by Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, President Dmitry Medvedev, in April 2010.It trims US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads - a cut of about 30% from a limit set eight years ago.The treaty would also allow each side visually to inspect the other's nuclear capability, with the aim of verifying how many warheads each missile carries.A previous inspection regime - part of the old Start treaty - expired a year ago.In addition, there will be legally binding limits on the number of warheads and missiles that can be deployed on land, on submarines, and on bombers, at any one time.
Although the treaty won wide support from former government figures - including a string of former presidents and secretaries of state, senior Republicans were opposed to allowing the outgoing Senate to vote on the treaty.They argued that the treaty could compromise US national security, handing Russia influence over American missile defence strategy.
In contrast, President Obama has argued that ratification of New Start was vital to US national security.The treaty forms a key plank of the president's much-heralded "re-set" of relations with Russia.Speaking in Mumbai before the vote took place, Russian President Medvedev said he was "optimistic" that the US Senate would pass the treaty.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had previously warned that the treaty would be scrapped if Republicans succeeded in altering its form from the document signed in April.On Monday, Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to quickly ratify the agreement, becoming the latest in a series of senior military and civilian national security officials to back it.