[JURIST] US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) [official website] on Sunday said that Senate approval of the so-called New START treaty [text, PDF; BBC backgrounder] will not happen this year. Speaking on a morning talk show, Alexander stated [transcript], "there's not a chance the treaty will be approved this year. It took a year and a half to approve the START I treaty." The new START treaty replaces the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I treaty) [materials], with Russia and the United States each pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol, both countries would only be allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted. Reaction to the new treaty has been mixed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] called [press release] it a "significant achievement," while Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) [official website] expressed reservations. Appearing with Alexander on Fox News, Lieberman indicated he did not believe that START would have Senate support unless the Obama administration committed to modernize the existing nuclear arsenal, stating:
I don't believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START treaty unless the administration does two things — first, commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons we know they're capable, if, God forbid, we need them; and secondly, to make absolutely clear that some of the statements by Russian president Medvedev at the signing in Prague that seem to suggest that if we continue to build the ballistic missile defense in Europe that they may pull out of this treaty — they're just unacceptable to us. We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran.
President Obama is expected to submit the treaty to the Senate in early May and Senate Democrats have indicated [AFP report] they will then begin hearings with the aim of ratifying the treaty within the year.
US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague last Thursday. The treaty agreement, reached [JURIST report] in 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].