United States poised to ap­prove nu­clear arms pact with Rus­sia

The Pak Banker - - International -

WASHINGTON: The Se­nate is poised to ap­prove a nu­clear arms pact with Rus­sia, hand­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama a huge vic­tory on his top for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity.

Pas­sage of the New START treaty ap­peared as­sured af­ter 11 Repub­li­cans joined Democrats in a vote Tues­day to end de­bate on the pact. That sig­naled that Obama should have the twothirds ma­jor­ity he needs when the Se­nate votes on fi­nal ap­proval Wed­nes­day.

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The ap­proval would mark a big come­back for Obama's arm con­trols ef­forts af­ter the treaty ap­peared all but dead just weeks ago. It also would al­low Obama to con­tinue ef­forts to im­prove re­la­tions with Rus­sia.

Rat­i­fi­ca­tion would mark a third re­cent ma­jor po­lit­i­cal vic­tory for Obama, even though his Demo­cratic party was trounced in last month's con­gres­sional elec­tions. In re­cent days he won pas­sage of a bi­par­ti­san tax deal and a vote end­ing the ban on gays openly serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.

"We are on the brink of writ­ing the next chap­ter in the 40-year his­tory of wrestling with the threat of nu­clear weapons," For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Kerry, a Demo­crat, said af­ter the vote.

The treaty would limit each coun­try's strate­gic nu­clear war­heads to 1,550, down from the cur­rent ceil­ing of 2,200. It also would es­tab­lish a sys­tem for mon­i­tor­ing and ver­i­fi­ca­tion. U.S. weapons in­spec­tions ended last year with the ex­pi­ra­tion of a 1991 treaty.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion was adamant that it be rat­i­fied this year be­cause the Democrats' ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate is set to shrink by five in Jan­uary and wait­ing could have meant months of de­lay or de­feat.

Repub­li­cans ac­cused Democrats of rush­ing ap­proval of the treaty for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. They have as­serted it would limit U.S. mis­sile de­fense op­tions and ar­gued it has in­suf­fi­cient pro­ce­dures to ver­ify Rus­sia's ad­her­ence.

When Jon Kyl, the lead­ing Repub­li­can on ne­go­ti­a­tions over the treaty, sug­gested a de­lay last month, Obama ap­peared un­likely to find the nine Repub­li­can votes needed for pas­sage.

But he and top mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion lob­bied in­tensely, with Obama post­pon­ing his Christ­mas vacation in Hawaii. They en­listed sup­port from top mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and big-name Repub­li­cans from past ad­min­is­tra­tions who ar­gued the treaty was es­sen­tial for U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity.

In the end, they per­suaded enough Repub­li­cans to defy the party's top two lead­ers in the Se­nate and sup­port the pact.

"We know when we've been beaten," Repub­li­can Sen. Or­rin Hatch told re­porters hours be­fore Tues­day's vote.

Even the Se­nate's No. 3 Repub­li­can, La­mar Alexan­der, en­dorsed the ac­cord, say­ing he was as­sured U.S. de­fenses would not be weak­ened.

The treaty will leave the United States "with enough nu­clear war­heads to blow any at­tacker to king­dom come," Alexan­der said on the Se­nate floor.

Repub­li­cans had tried to kill the treaty by forc­ing changes in its lan­guage that would have sent it back for ne­go­ti­a­tions with Moscow. Democrats were work­ing to ap­pease some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors by let­ting them raise these is­sues in leg­is­la­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing the treaty that would not di­rectly af­fect the treaty. Most Repub­li­cans re­mained op­posed. -Ap

BAGHDAD: A res­i­dent reads a news­pa­per a day af­ter the Iraqi par­lia­ment voted for a new cabi­net in Baghdad De­cem­ber 22, 2010. -Reuters

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