By NEMS Daily Journal
A U.S. Senate vote is expected today on ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a successor to START I, and at least a two-thirds majority is expected to approve the pact negotiated by American and Russian diplomats and experts.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is on record in support of ratification in a letter with three senior Senate colleagues to President Obama, and he on Tuesday voted to limit debate, setting up today’s anticipated vote.
Sen. Roger Wicker continues his opposition to the treaty, consistently expressed in the Foreign Relations Committee and in floor debate.
The 67-28 vote for cloture, limiting debate, measures the depth of support for provisions of the treaty and, many say, the promise for future, additional reductions and a modernization of the American nuclear arsenal.
In a Washington Post summary, New START is described as a 10-year treaty between the United States and Russia, a successor to the first START nuclear arms-reduction treaty signed in 1991. It would cap the number of deployed, long-range nuclear warheads on each side at 1,550, down from 2,200, and it would reduce the number of deployed nuclear-carrying submarines, long-range missiles and heavy bombers to a maximum of 700, with 100 more in reserve (the U.S. currently has about 850 deployed; Russia an estimated 565). It would re-establish a system in which each of the nuclear giants monitors the other’s arsenal. That system ended last year.
Some opponents believe traditional arms-control is outdated and it would be better to focus on building an ambitious missile shield, something like President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” vision, as the Post described.
Others worry about missile defense in New START. While it would not bar the United States from carrying out its current missile-defense plans, some Republicans worry Russia would seize on them to pressure Washington in the future.
And, some don’t want a lame-duck session to approve it. Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s senior military officer, and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates have appealed for passage – strong recommendations.
In the broader deal, Obama has committed to spending about $85 billion on modernizing America’s nuclear complex over the next 10 years, a $14 billion increase over what otherwise might have been spent, and that is persuasive for senators like Cochran.
Treaties stir controversy. The Panama Canal treating ceding U.S. control was divisive and hotly debated. It worked.
In the spirit of the late President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” the new treaty looks solid.