President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) alongside Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Prague early Thursday morning, which proposes modest cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both countries. The 30% reductions required by the treaty will bring the number of nuclear weapons available to levels not seen since the 1960's. The signing ended more than a year of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, and President Obama noted that New START has been an opportunity to "reset" relations between the two countries. This constitutes a diplomatic victory for President Obama, who hopes that the Senate will be receptive to the treaty. Still, some advocates insist that the cuts were not deep enough, and hope that priority will be given to securing further agreements on arsenal cutbacks with the Russians.
The treaty and accompanying protocols will be forwarded on to the State Department, where it will undergo an article-by-article analysis. Then it will be sent to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for hearings. There have been relatively few criticisms of the treaty's provisions, and it received bi-partisan support throughout the negotiation process. Still, the treaty is likely to face some trouble once it reaches Senate, where 67 votes are required for the Senate to pass its "advice and consent" on to the President for ratification. Republican roadblocks may lie ahead on the path to ratification, especially when it comes to the U.S. plans for missile defense and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Despite the fact that the treaty will leave both countries with relatively large arsenals, ratifying the New START is a promising step in President Obama's nuclear security agenda and hopefully will provide leverage for discussions on reductions and disarmament more broadly. The administration has tasked Brian McKeon, who works in the vice president's office with the National Security Council, with heading up ratification efforts. GlobalSolutions.org will strongly support his work and advocate for the rapid ratification of New START.