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New START Ratified by the Senate
By a vote of 71 to 26, the U.S. Senate has voted to ratify the New START agreement. More importantly, it was a "clean" ratification, without any amendments or reservations to the text of the treaty itself. The treaty could now be taken up by the Russian Duma in the next forty-eight hours, before its autumn session is concluded on December 24th (Christmas is celebrated in Russia on the Julian calendar, so there will be no objections to taking up business on what would be Christmas Eve on the Gregorian calendar). In its resolution confirming ratification, the Senate did codify the U.S. understanding of the preamble--that it does not legally constrain the United States from moving ahead with missile defense--and, as Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) has noted, the president is required to notify the Russians "that continued development and deployment of U.S. missile defense systems do not threaten the strategic balance with Russia and consequently do not constitute a basis to withdraw from the treaty." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the Senate's decision but noted, "The [foreign] ministry and the parliament, we need some time to study the documents of the US ratification." But it seems unlikely that Moscow would jeopardize the pact over this issue, especially since the language of the treaty was left untouched. Once the treaty is ratified by the Russian side, the question is then left on the table: does New START represent the "high-water mark" both of the U.S.-Russia "reset" and of President Obama's efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons?
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