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START to Stop?

Mark Urban | 17:18 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

The Obama administration's attempt to reset relations with Russia - a principal foreign policy aim - is in danger of running aground because of difficulties in the US Senate ratifying a nuclear arms agreement.

"A lot is at stake", Anders Fogh Rasmussen the Secretary General of Nato, said in a Newsnight interview today at the Lisbon summit, adding that "early ratification is instrumental" in improving relations with Russia.

In April, the US and Russia concluded the START agreement, limiting their strategic nuclear arsenals.

In order for the treaty to come into effect, 67 Senators must vote for it. Democrat losses in the mid-term elections mean that 14 Republicans must back START and that now seems unlikely.

Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona says the Senate should not vote on the treaty this year. By January next year those newly elected members of his party will have taken their seats.

Russian analysts argue that President Dmitri Medvedev has taken considerable political risks in advancing relations with the US, and that if the treaty falters, this progress could be undone.

There has been much discussion on the margins of this summit about the diminishing prospects for the nuclear treaty.

Speaking to us today Mr Rasmussen said the Lisbon summit, "will express the strong desire to see an early ratification of the START treaty".

Some believe that Mr Kyl could be persuaded to withdraw his objections to an early vote if the Obama administration invested more money in the nuclear weapons research facilities that are major employers in Arizona.

Others argue that Mr Obama's opponents are bent on denying him the foreign policy success of improved relations with Russia.


  • Comment number 1.


    Remember Dr Strangelove?

    Does anyone REALLY think nuclear arms deals are about disclosure and reality? You will be suggesting that neither Russia nor USA/UK has a bio-weapons programme next. Then there will be other weapons, once only found in comic books, being urgently/secretly developed, to get that edge. It is the equivalent of the tunnels dug by both sides, when trench warfare was stalled - I bet they signed a 'no tunnels' agreement.

    While madmen lead and mercenaries follow, even in the most 'civilised' of states, we are going nowhere but down.

  • Comment number 2.

    I know we hate the swines...but they make such bloody fine radios....

  • Comment number 3.

    #1 - barriesingleton


    Well that it may be but is that entirely fair? Surly the point here is that a little progress is better than none at all and, while doubtless Moscow and Washington will be milking it for all the PR value available, it will result in less money being wasted on maintaining obsolete systems for no useful purpose.

    Can you seriously justify a head of government entering into a solemn agreement with the rider that it depends on the boys back home ticking the right boxes? Democratic accountability is one thing, the global balance of power dependent on a few jobs in Arizona is quite another.

  • Comment number 4.


    I have been catching up on what America is doing to its people, in the name of security against 'Terror(ism)'. They make our bunch of pledgers look like amateurs. But I can understand why Tony got to see Obama first - before all the others.

    I would settle for acknowledged and mitigated unfairness.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think the Republicans are being totally idiotic to try and wreck the START agreement for partisan political motives, it's a sensible comprise that still allows the US to have more than enough Nuclear Delivery systems to defend the US and it's allies.
    if it's rejected by the US congress the Russians are likely to be outraged, out will go their help in Afghanistan, agreement in Missile Defence and diplomatic help with Iran and North Korea, all for little gain, the Russian State now has the money to fund a new Generation of land based ICBM's, indeed they seem to have solved the problems with their latest Ballistic Missile. in fact, it's the US which would find problems funding a new missile race, what with the poor Economic outlook in the States and very over stretched defense budget.


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