WASHINGTON – The US Senate on Wednesday ratified a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, handing President Barack Obama a signal diplomatic and political victory after a months-long battle.
Lawmakers voted 71-26 in favor of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), easily clearing the two-thirds majority needed to approve the pact, which Obama had made a lynchpin of efforts to “reset” relations with Moscow.
After a relentless courtship by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and top US military commanders, a platoon of Republicans backed the treaty, bucking leaders eager to hand the president a major defeat.
“I am confident that our nation’s security, and that of the world, will be enhanced by ratifying this treaty,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, the accord’s chief Democratic patron in the congress.
Kerry — who with the panel’s top Republican, Senator Richard Lugar, steered the accord through a difficult and even bitter debate — echoed White House arguments that the pact will help efforts to confront Iran and North Korea.
The accord “is not simply an agreement to address the lingering dangers of the old nuclear age. It is an agreement that will give us a crucial tool to combat the threats of this new nuclear age,” he said moments before the vote.
Prior to approving the treaty, lawmakers attached non-binding amendments to the resolution of ratification technical document to recommit Washington to deploying a missile defense system, modernizing its nuclear arsenal, and seek new talks with Russia on curbing tactical nuclear weapons.
Biden presided over the session — a vice presidential prerogative — and US Secretary of State Clinton milled about with senators ahead of the vote.