Thursday, September 16, 2010

Obama calls for soonest ratification of arms treaty with Russia

U.S. President Barack Obama and other top state officials urged the Senate of speed up the ratification of a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-4 on Thursday to recommend the Senate ratify a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia.

"Today, I urge the full Senate to move forward quickly with a vote to approve this Treaty," the U.S. President said in a statement.

"I encourage members on both sides of the aisle to give this agreement the fair hearing and bipartisan support that it deserves, and that has been given to past agreements of its kind," he went on.

He said that "leaders from across the political spectrum," including former secretaries of state and defense from Republican and Democratic administrations have endorsed the treaty.

"They recognize that it is in our national security interest," the president added.

The new treaty was signed by Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on April 8 in Prague as a replacement for the START 1 treaty that expired in December 2009. It stipulates that the number of nuclear warheads is to be reduced to 1,550 on each side, while the number of deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles must not exceed 800 on each side.

The Russian and U.S. presidents earlier agreed that the ratification processes should be go ahead side-by-side.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "applauded" the committee vote in a joint statement.

"Like previous arms control treaties, the New START Treaty deserves broad bipartisan support and prompt ratification by the full Senate. We urge Senators to act quickly and approve this treaty," the statement reads.

The two officials said the treaty would provide stability and predictability in relations of the world's two largest nuclear powers.

"It will restore crucial inspection and verification mechanisms that ceased when the original START agreement expired last year, allowing U.S. inspectors back inside Russian nuclear weapons silos," Clinton and Gates said. "And it will help keep nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes."

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who is currently on the visit to the U.S., also welcomed the move.

"Of course, we are positive [about the recommendation]. We discussed it yesterday with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Both U.S. and Russia are interested in [ratification]," he said. "We expect this to happen, though not everyone in Russia applauds the agreement."

He said that Russia would follow the U.S. ratification procedure to try and synchronize the ratification process, but "will not jump the gun."

The document was submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification on May 13 and to the State Duma on May 28.

Representatives of the Department of State and the U.S. administration earlier said that the Senate may vote before the November 2 mid-term elections. However, Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate's foreign affairs committee, said that the voting should take place after the elections, for a smoother and swifter vote.

"I personally believe we will have the votes to ratify this," the senator said.

The Democrats control just 59 seats in the upper house of the U.S. Congress, while a total of 67 votes are required to ratify the agreement. At least one of the Republicans, Senator Richard Lugar, openly expressed his support for the pact.


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