The Russian State Duma could vote before 2011 to ratify a new nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, a senior member of the body said today (see GSN, Dec. 21).
"If the Senate ratifies the treaty, our committee may call an emergency meeting to discuss the document," Agence France-Presse quoted Leonid Slutsky, first deputy chairman of the body's international affairs committee, as saying.
Slutsky spoke before the U.S. Senate voted to endorse the agreement (see related GSN story, today). Approval by legislatures in both nations is required to bring the pact into force.
"In either case, it is much better to enter the new year with a ratified treaty in hand," the lawmaker said (Agence France-Presse, Dec. 22).
Andrei Klimov, another member of the lower house of parliament's international affairs panel, also affirmed the intention to promptly approve the pact following its ratification in the United States.
"We will act in a gentlemanly way in keeping with our promises," Klimov told the Associated Press (Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press/Google News, Dec. 21).
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START in April. The pact would require Russia and the United States to cap their deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550, down from a limit of 2,200 required by 2012 under an earlier treaty. It also would set a ceiling of 700 deployed warhead delivery systems, with another 100 allowed in reserve.
Details of the treaty might permit the sides to each maintain warheads in addition to the maximum number the countries are formally allowed under the pact, according to the New York Times (see GSN, March 31). The United States possesses 1,950 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and 798 delivery systems, the Federation for American Scientists estimates, and Russia holds 2,540 deployed nuclear warheads and 574 delivery vehicles (Peter Baker, New York Times I, Dec. 21).
Republican resistance to New START in past months foreshadows a gloomy future for other items on President Obama's nuclear agenda, experts said. These include U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, establishment of a global fissile material cutoff treaty, and a potential U.S.-Russian pact on the nations' respective stocks of tactical nuclear weapons.
“If the START treaty was this hard, you can only imagine how difficult the rest will be,” former Defense Secretary William Perry told the Times. “But even though it was small, it was vital -- because everything we need to do in the future, starting with halting the Iranian program, requires working with Russia and showing that we are serious about bringing our own nuclear stockpiles down.”
Asked about the status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the Senate, Kerry said, “There’s just been no talk about that right now, none whatsoever" (David Sanger, New York Times II, Dec. 21).