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Obama gets bipartisan support for N-arms cut deal with Russia

March 27, 2010 13:58 IST

United States President Barack Obama has received bipartisan support for a new arms cut deal with Russia in place of the Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty under which the two sides will reduce their nuclear stockpiles by 30 per cent, with lawmakers describing it as a historic move for global security.

"I know there has been a partisan breakdown in recent years, but we can renew the Senate's bipartisan tradition on arms control and approve ratification of this new treaty in 2010. I know that can happen. This is a moment for statesmanship," Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

His remarks came after the White House announced on Friday that Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev had reached an agreement on reducing their atomic stockpiles by 30 per cent and the pact would be signed by the two leaders in Prague on April 8.

"This is a historic day for the United States, Russia and all countries and people who hope for a more secure and peaceful world, free of the threat of annihilation from nuclear weapons. It also demonstrates our two countries' commitment to fulfil their existing treaty obligations to move toward nuclear disarmament," said Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations.

He noted that the new agreement, which will replace the expired START and will aid US efforts to strengthen the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the May Review Conference in New York.

Leading Republican Senator, Richard Lugar, said he is looking forward to the President's submission of the new treaty, its protocols, annexes and all associated documents to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification.

"Not only will this treaty reduce the amount of Russian nuclear weapons by hundreds, but it comfortably maintains America's nuclear capabilities so that we can keep America secure and deter our adversaries," said Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader.

"Historically, these treaties have received broad bipartisan support, and I am confident that this treaty will achieve similar support from both sides of the aisle," he said.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representative, said the New START treaty marks another step forward to create a world free of nuclear weapons.

This comprehensive arms control agreement is a sign of progress for the peace and security of all nations and the future of people across the globe, she added.

"This announcement ((US-Russia deal) reflects the need to act responsibly in the global community and to lead through cooperation," Pelosi said.

"Under the provisions of this proposal, the United States and Russia will reduce the size of their nuclear stockpiles discarding relics of an era defined by fear and mistrust, and replacing them with a commitment to mutual interests and partnership," she said.

Noting that the new pact is important for US' cooperation with Russia and global security as a whole, Senator Mark Begich said, "An agreement by the US and Russia to reduce the number of nuclear weapons ... keeps us on a course of nuclear non-proliferation."

Welcoming the news, Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said signing the new treaty will resume the long stalled process to verifiably reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the Russian and US inventories.

However, Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed her concern regarding the potentially negative impact on US national security.

"This is neither the right deal, nor the right time. One can only hope that this deal was not shaped by a naive motive of appeasing Russia in the hope that it will become a responsible member of the world community," she said.

"Why is the US locking itself into lower, bilateral limits with Russia with a deal that completely ignores China's ability -- if it so desires -- to rapidly deploy a major nuclear arsenal? This looks like a bailout for Russia and a bonus for China," Ros-Lehtinen said.

"The Congress was largely kept in the dark until now. But make no mistake, we will carefully scrutinise the terms of this agreement to be sure that our missile defences will not be eroded or neglected in any way. Iran and North Korea are working to develop longer-range missiles which could soon place the US within reach. We cannot afford to let our guard down now," she added.

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