Senate votes to ratify New START Treaty

WASHINGTON (RNN) - The Senate voted 71-26 in favor to ratify the revised Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) Wednesday.

As it stands, the treaty will reduce the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to fewer than 1,550 warheads within seven years, almost two-thirds lower than limits under the original treaty that was signed in 1991. That treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

Intercontinental and submarine ballistic missile launchers, as well as heavy bombers, will be limited to 800 per side, with only 700 allowed for deployment.

The United States currently has 1,950 deployed strategic warheads and 798 deployed launchers, according to the Federation of American Scientists, while Russia has 2,540 deployed strategic warheads and 574 strategic launchers.

The treaty would also return U.S. nuclear inspectors to Russia to ensure compliance with the arms reductions for the first time since being forced to leave in Dec. 9, 2009.

In a letter to senators, President Barack Obama ensured his commitment to a 10-year, $85 billion program to continue to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons. This is in an effort to ensure that, despite a shrinking nuclear arsenal, the weapons would remain well-maintained and effective.

[Read the letter here]

Also in the letter the president said that The New START Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of the missile defense programs.

Senators who voted against the bill said they believed there were gaping holes that undermine U.S. defense.

Critics argued that the treaty's inspections were inadequate and that the language in its preamble could give Russia the ability to try and keep the United States from deploying missile defense installations in Eastern Europe.

Senator Kay Bailey, R-TX, said that those opposed to the treaty are not "anti-Russian," but are more interested in getting revised language into the treaty. Bailey said she wished more time had been given in making the treaty more bipartisan.

The treaty will still need to be approved by Russia before going into effect.

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