Democratic leaders urge adoption of New START this year

Following a severe defeat for the Democratic Party in the U.S. midterm elections, President Barack Obama led prominent Democrats today in calling for the ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia during the forthcoming ‘lame duck’ session of Congress.

President Obama, speaking at a cabinet meeting, said that the Senate ratification of New START remained a priority for the administration. It would “send a strong signal to Russia that we are serious about reducing nuclear arsenals, but also sending a signal to the world that we’re serious about nonproliferation.” He noted that the treaty had the support of former Republican Secretary of State George Shultz and that national security issues traditionally had bipartisan support.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated during a visit to New Zealand that “we take this treaty very seriously, and I know that the Russian Government does as well. We are working hard to pass the treaty. As you know, it was reported out of our Senate Foreign Relations Committee by an overwhelming vote. We believe we have enough votes to pass it in the Senate.” She added that “The continuing efforts by the United States and Russia to reduce their stockpiles is essential toward any progress toward that goal [of a world without nuclear weapons].”

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, promised to continue working closely with the Committee Ranking Member, Dick Lugar, and with other Republicans to ensure the treaty ratification’s by the full Senate “by the end of the year”, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Berlin.

However in Moscow, the Russian State Duma showed signs of nervousness about the treaty ratification. On Wednesday, the Duma’s international committee withdrew its recommendation on approving the New START treaty in the light of the U.S. midterms outcome. The committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachyov, said: “If the ‘lame-duck’ senators from the old makeup cannot do this in the next weeks then the chances of ratification in the new Senate will be radically lower than they were until now.”

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