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Russia parliament approves New START treaty

The Russian Federation Council [official website, in Russian] on Wednesday voted to ratify the New START treaty [materials, PDF; JURIST news archive], an agreement between Russia and the US intended to reduce nuclear arms in both countries. The upper house of Russia's parliament unanimously supported the measure, which calls for each country to reduce its nuclear arsenal [RIA Novosti report] by about 30 percent. Under the new treaty, each country will be allowed to have 1,550 warheads as opposed to the 2,200 allowed under the old Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [materials] that expired in December 2009. Council-member Viktor Evtukhov [official profile, in Russian] said [press release, in Russian], "[t]he conclusion of the START treaty is clearly the achievement of national policy. First, the ratification of the treaty will have a positive impact in all areas of bilateral cooperation—the signing of START-3 completely draws a line under the Cold War. Secondly, the New START treaty fully meets the interests of Russia, who chose a less costly and more rational approach." Russia included non-binding language in its ratification disapproving US plans [AP report] to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that the treaty will not affect Russian plans [RIA Novosti report] to build a missile defense system. Russia's lower house ratified the treaty [RIA Novosti report] Tuesday.

Russia's lower house originally approved the treaty [JURIST report] in December. Earlier that month, the US Senate [official website] voted 71-26 [JURIST report] to ratify the treaty. US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague in April. The agreement, reached [JURIST report] last February, is the first nuclear agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years. The US State Department began negotiating [JURIST report] the treaty with Russia in 2009. Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, whose nuclear arsenals comprise 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, languished during the Bush administration. The treaty is considered a key part of easing tensions between the two countries, which reached a high point after the 2008 Georgia conflict [BBC backgrounder].

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