Senate Ratifies New START; Russian Parliament’s Turn Now

The Senate last week ratified the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia by a margin of 71 to 26, delivering President Obama a key victory for his foreign policy agenda. “This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia,” said Obama during a White House press briefing on Dec. 22, just hours after the Senate’s vote (see last week’s initial coverage). Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 24 praised Obama for his ability to get the treaty through the Senate and called New START “a cornerstone of security for the coming decades,” reported The New York Times. The ball is now in the Russian court. On Dec. 24, the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament approved the treaty in a first reading by a vote of 350 to 58, reported RIA Novesti. But the Duma’s final approval is not expected until mid January with a third reading. The upper-house Federation Council must also ratify the treaty before it can enter into force. (See White House statement on Obama-Medvedev phone conversation)