The U.S. Senate this afternoon ratified the latest START treaty by a vote of 71 to 26 following weeks of debate on the issue during which republicans tried to block the treaty on grounds that it would tie the United States' hands with regards to missile defense and upgrading its nuclear arsenal.
The treaty, known as New START, commits the U.S. and Russia to trimming their numbers of deployed strategic nuclear warheads from more than 2,000 to 1,555 and will reopen each nations' nuclear sites to arms inspectors from both sides; something that hasn't happened since the last START treaty expired over on year ago.
13 Republicans joined 56 Democrats to vote for the treaty, which was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Demetry Medvedev in April. The treaty must now be ratified by Russia.
Over last two weeks the Obama administration has gone all out to push the treaty in the Senate. Vice President Joe Biden personally oversaw today's vote in his role as President of the Senate and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was on the Senate floor for the vote. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright, repeatedly said the treaty will not hurt the U.S.' position with regard to missile defense or nuclear modernization.
“I think that there were some genuine concerns on the Hill, particularly on the republican side, but not exclusively on the republican side about the modernization of our nuclear enterprise and a reluctance to go forward on START without the assurances that the resources would be made available to” modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, said Gates during a White House press conference last week.
“I think that there were some misunderstandings, frankly, on missile defense, I hope that the testimony of the Joint Chiefs and General Cartwright who’s expert in this area and, perhaps me to a lesser extent, have provided some reassurances to people that this treaty in no way limits anything we have in mind or want to do on missile defense,” he added.
Cartwright, last week said that the new treaty will actually make modernizing the nation's nuclear arsenal easier.
“For me, all the Joint Chiefs are very much behind this treaty, because of the transparency, because of the reality that both the United States and Russia are going to have to recapitalize their nuclear arsenals, both the delivery vehicles and the weapons,” said Cartwright. “To have transparency and to put structure to [the recapitalization] process, we need START and we need it badly.”