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Obama Administration Presses START

In September of this year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia. Two months later, the future of the treaty is seriously in question with a strong Republican opposition and increased tension after midterm elections. Russia’s Duma will not approve the treaty unless the US Senate ratifies it, and the lame-duck session of Congress is likely the Obama Administration’s last hope of seeing the treaty ratified as it is. In addition to arms control, Obama also sought to help Russia take its place in the World Trade Organization, and Congress must also approve that permanent trade relation. As Russia watches the debate over the treaty, it seems unlikely that the next step forward in US-Russia relations will take place through the New START.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates repeats the concern that since the expiration the old START treaty, there have been no inspections of Russian arms stockpiles. The Administration is backing the Treaty as a means to improve verifiability and bui

ld trust between the United States and Russia, as inspectors on the ground will be able to watch the production and accumulation of nuclear arms. The opposition has expressed a national security interest in delaying the approval of the Treaty, as several Republican senators have written in the past week, with the main concern being missile defense. The response has been that the New START Treaty is about strategic arms control, and the focus should be on creating visibility and transparency in talks between the two nuclear powers.

White House officials went to Capitol Hill to meet with senators in a last-minute effort to gain support for the lame-duck session. In a measure calculated to allay concerns and hasten ratification, the Obama Administration reportedly offered to spend $4.1 billion more on the United States nuclear arms complex over the next five years. The offer is unconfirmed, but adding that sum on top of the already promised $10 billion is a move illustrating how important the New START Treaty is to the Administration and its goals



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