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US Senate ratification of New START treaty keeps US-Russia 'reset' on track

The New START treaty could be ratified in Russia as early as Friday. But many pitfalls remain amid the US-Russia attempt to move away from cold war constraints.

By Correspondent / December 23, 2010



Moscow

An almost audible sigh of relief arose in Moscow after the US Senate ratified the New START nuclear arms control accord Wednesday. The vote ends weeks of nail-biting uncertainty and ensures that President Obama's shaky "reset" of US-Russia relations remains on track, at least for now.

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President Dmitry Medvedev, currently on a state visit to India, used Twitter to inform the world that he was "pleased" at news of the unexpected bipartisan Senate vote of 71-26, and "expressed the hope" that Russia's parliament would move swiftly to ratify the treaty.

Within hours of Mr. Medvedev's tweet, the speaker of Russia's State Duma, Boris Gryzlov, announced that parliamentarians would likely ratify the document Friday – as long as the US Senate hasn't inserted any tricky new language into the text.

"There is information that the resolution contains several conditions," Mr. Gryzlov said Thursday. "Unless the conditions concern the wording of the treaty, we may ratify the treaty tomorrow."

The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) mandate of roughly 30 percent cuts to Russia and US nuclear arsenals is generally conceded to be quite modest – considering that the two former rivals still possess more than 95 percent of the world's atomic weapons – but the political symbolism of the deal is intense. Mr. Obama chose to make strategic arms talks the centerpiece of his calculated "reset" of relations with Russia and any failure to finalize the deal might have plunged the two sides into an instant cold bath.

"We have been asking, 'Is the cold war really over?' The ratification of this treaty tells us, 'Yes, it's over,' " says Viktor Kremeniuk, deputy director of the official Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow. "Clearly we agree that in future we must find the ways to act together. The main question now on the agenda is, what do we do next?"

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