By a vote of 71 to 26, the Senate has ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) during its current lame-duck session. All 58 Democrats voted for the treaty, in addition to 13 Republicans (three Republicans were not present for the vote). While the outcome had been in doubt for weeks, if not months, in the end Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to get more than the 67 votes necessary to ensure passage.
Once the treaty goes into effect, it will set a cap of 1,550 deployed, long-range nuclear warheads for Russia and the United States, down from the 2,200 currently allowed. It will also reduce the number of nuclear-capable submarines, bombers and missiles to 700, with an additional 100 in reserve. In addition, it will allow each side to resume monitoring and tracking the movement of each other’s nuclear arsenal. The pros and cons of the START Treaty were covered in-depth in the October issue of International Debates.
In a statement following the Senate vote, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Today the Senate took a great step forward in enhancing our national security by providing its advice and consent to ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation. I congratulate the Senators of both parties who worked tirelessly to ensure that New START was approved, and I thank all the Senators who voted for this treaty for their commitment to our national security.”
Proponents of the treaty overcame resistance by some Republicans, led by Senator Jon Kyl (AZ-R), who argued that the Senate did not have enough time to fully consider the details of the treaty. In addition, he said that the treaty failed to address Russia’s larger tactical nuclear weapons arsenal and did not do enough to ensure that the U.S. could modernize its nuclear arsenal and protect America’s right to develop an anti-missle defense system. In an attempt to allay these concerns, the Senate voted on two amendments that emphasized the Obama Administration’s view that the treaty allowed continued U.S. development of a limited missile-defense system and nuclear weapons modernization.
Russian officials recently announced that they will quickly move to ratify the treaty in their legislative body, the Duma, with votes to began parhaps as early as next week.