12.22.10--Washington--The Senate approved a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia on Wednesday, giving President Barack Obama a major foreign policy victory. With this treaty, he achieves a major campaign promise to improve relations with Russia and to limit the spread of atomic weapons to other countries.
The Senate voted 71-26 in favor of the new START treaty, a treaty that was supported by every living ex-president and ex-secretary of state. It was passed after vigorous opposition by Republicans.
"This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them," Obama told reporters after the vote was announced.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the agreement marked, "a new gold standard for concluding agreements of this kind."
"Not only does the treaty facilitate a strengthening of the security of Russia and the USA but it will also have a positive effect on international stability and security in general," Lavrov said in an interview with the Interfax news agency.
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in April and it still needs to be approved by the Russian parliament. But, the dominant United Russia party is backed by the Kremlin, so ratification is expected.
Still, Russian lawmakers will need to review amendments added by Republican opponents.
"Taking into account the amendments added by senators, we are forced to undertake a deep and thorough analysis of the text ... since we are speaking about the national security of our country," Leonid Slutsky, deputy chair of parliament's international affairs committee, told Interfax.
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the treaty would send a message to Iran and North Korea "that the international community remains united to restrain the nuclear ambitions of countries that operate outside the law."
"We send a message that the two countries that possess 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons are fulfilling their obligations to reduce their arsenals in a responsible manner," Kerry said.
The treaty limits each country's long-range, strategic nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 within seven years. Deployed missile launchers will be limited to 700.
A year ago the original START ended, and with it, the inspection process. This agreement restores that process.
The new treaty has broad diplomatic and military support. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it would make a "significant contribution" to regional security and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was a "clear message" supporting nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.