The Midterms, New START and Obama’s Nonproliferation Agenda

The Midterms, New START and Obama’s Nonproliferation Agenda

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was sent to the Senate for consideration in May 2010, but its outlook is far from clear. To be ratified, the treaty mustachievetwo-thirds majorityapproval. But some treaty provisions, viewed by certain senators as restricting U.S. missile defense objectives, were already an obstacle to ratification six months ago. Even in its current configuration, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has demanded elimination of the treaty provisions related to missile defense and certain non-nuclear systems. Given Republican gains in the Senate following the midterm elections, these provisions will face even greater opposition come January.

Removing the treaty's missile defense provisions would contradict Russia's stated position on the subject. Upon signing New START in April of this year, the Russian leadership issued a unilateral declaration stating that the treaty'seffectiveness would be conditional upon the U.S. vowing to refrain from advancing its missile defense assets "quantitatively or qualitatively." In other words, Moscow reserved the right to withdraw from New START under the treaty's "extraordinary events" clause if the increase in American missile-defense capabilities threatened to undermine Russia's nuclear strategicdeterrence.

Given the Republican takeover of the House and President Barack Obama's reduced influence with his own constituencies, the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee has suspended the ratification process on New START indefinitely. Arms reduction at a time of such political uncertainty in the U.S. is strategically unfeasible for Moscow.

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