New START treaty between Russia and US could lead to better relations
Senate ratification of the New START treaty on nuclear weapons could open the way to progress on several stalled strategic issues between the US and Russia, as well as between NATO and Russia.
Russia and the United States have a chance to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent if the Senate ratifies the pending “New START” agreement. But there’s more to this pact than further arms reduction.Skip to next paragraph
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Senate ratification could also pave the way for progress on key stalled security issues between Washington and Moscow, as well as between NATO and Russia.
The agreement, a follow-up to the expired cold-war-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, has become unnecessarily controversial among Senate Republicans. Signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in April, the new arms deal may face its first political test this week if it is taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It’s expected to clear that hurdle, but ratification by two-thirds of senators will prove much more difficult.
As senators debate the particulars, they should keep in mind the potential benefit beyond the treaty’s reduction in nuclear weapons. Ratification doesn’t guarantee progress on other difficult security areas, but failure to ratify would likely set back these issues:
European missile defense. Russia is uneasy about US plans for an anti-Iranian missile shield to protect Europe (although it is less alarmed ever since the Obama administration modified it to deploy it first on ships in the Mediterranean and later on land). Russia (erroneously) sees a European shield as a potential security threat and an encroachment on its “sphere of influence.”
Like the Bush administration before it, the Obama team has also reached out to Russia and suggested that it take part in a shield. Germany, on good terms with Russia, is pushing the idea as well. Such a partnering would do much to build trust between Washington and Moscow, and it would send a powerful message to nuclear-bent Iran.