The New START treaty, which Russia's Federation Council ratified
today, is a major step in resetting US-Russia relations, yet many
major issues remain.
The New START nuclear arms reduction treaty - the most ambitious
US-Russia strategic accord since the cold war - cleared its final
hurdle Wednesday by winning unanimous approval from Russia's upper
house of parliament.
The deal, which will see strategic nuclear arsenals on both sides
slashed by about 30 percent, was ratified by the more rambunctious
State Duma, the lower house, on Tuesday by a comfortable vote of 350
to 96. (Members of the upper house, called the Federation Council,
are effectively appointed by the Kremlin, while a few opposition
deputies still sit in the elected Duma).
Experts say the treaty's passage through Russia's parliament has
been a foregone conclusion since the US Senate gave it a far-less-
predictable stamp of approval during its lame-duck session last
"There were no doubts that the Duma would pass this, since it's
clear to all that this is a necessary and beneficial agreement for
Russia," says Pavel Zolotaryov, deputy director of the official
Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow. "Russia's economy cannot
afford to compete with the US in this area, and this accord sets a
level that supports strategic stability. It also corrects the system
of mutual verification of nuclear armaments [which had lapsed],
making it simpler but essentially as effective as before."
President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to sign the ratification
document soon, allowing New START to come into legal force.
Skepticism about New START
The treaty still faces strong skepticism from some in the US who
worry Russia might use wording in the document's preamble, which
links offensive weapons cuts with the still-contentious issue of
missile defense, to limit US strategic freedom of action in future.
Before passing the ratification bill Tuesday, the Duma amended it
to stress Russia's right to withdraw from START if the US upsets the
strategic balance with any major missile defense initiatives.
"The treaty will work only if the US observes its conditions,"
the head of the Duma's foreign affairs commission, Konstantin
Kosachyev, told journalists Tuesday.
Later that day, President Obama said during his State of the
Union message that the deal shows that efforts to halt the
proliferation of atomic arms around the world are alive and well. …