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Obama Presses for US-Russia Nuclear Pact


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, meets with U. S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, 14 Nov 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, meets with U. S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, 14 Nov 2010

Republican senators continue to express misgivings about a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. The comments follow President Barack Obama's assurances to his Russian counterpart that Senate ratification of the New START treaty will be a top priority in an end-of-year session of the U.S. Congress.

President Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the just-concluded Asia-Pacific economic summit in Japan. Earlier this year, the two men signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which would cut nuclear weapons stockpiles by as much as a third.

Mr. Obama promised an energetic lobbying effort to secure ratification of the pact.

"I reiterated my commitment to get the START treaty done during the lame duck session and I have communicated to Congress that it is a top priority," he said.

The U.S. constitution mandates the Senate must ratify foreign treaties before they go into effect. Beginning next year, Democrats will have a greatly-reduced majority in the Senate, which could complicate ratification, unless the treaty is approved in the final weeks of this year.

Appearing on ABC's This Week program, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was asked if he intends to vote for ratification.

"In its current condition, no. You have two impediments," Modernization - not only do we need a START treaty, we need to modernize our nuclear force, the weapons that are left to make sure they continue to be a deterrent. And we need to make sure we can deploy missile-defense systems that are apart from START. So there are two stumbling blocks."

In a bid to remove at least one stumbling block, administration officials say they would consider additional funds to maintain and modernize the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Also appearing on This Week, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the New START treaty must not be allowed to languish.

"First of all, it is a good treaty. We remember [former] President [Ronald] Reagan saying 'trust but verify'. And what has happened is that the verification procedures have not been in place for almost a year," she said. "So we need the treaty for that [verification]. Plus, the relationship with the Russians is very important. They have been very helpful on Iran. And I hope very much that the lame-duck session [of Congress] recognizes the importance of the treaty."

The U.S. Congress returns to work Monday.

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