[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] voted 71-26 Wednesday to ratify the so-called New START treaty [materials; JURIST news archive] between Russia and the US. The new START treaty replaces the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I treaty) [materials], with Russia and the US 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. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official websites], praised the ratification, saying:
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 cooperation with Russia in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and supplying our troops in Afghanistan can be strengthened.
The treaty needed at least 67 votes to be ratified.
US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official websites] signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague in April. The 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].