US Congress likely to vote on START by November
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by both US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on April 8, 2010. One of the primary focuses of the treaty is the reduction in nuclear arms. The Senate was expected to approve the treaty in June.
“I don’t think that we should be terribly concerned. This is not a long time for it to be considered. You have to also remember the Senate has a lot of other things on its plate,” said Ivan Oelrich of the Federation of American Scientists.
He explained that the Senate is also working on other matters, including Iran sanction, the BP oil spill and economic issues.
Senator John Kerry said he wants a vote in committee before congress leave for vacation in August. The Senate would then hold a vote when they returned, likely before the November elections.
“One of the things that is not clear is how the Republicans are going to respond to this and how they are going to react,” said Oelrich.
In the past the Republicans have voted in favor of similar treaties, however it remains unseen whether this will become a political issue.
“If the Republicans decide that they’re going to make this a party issue, the treaty is dead. If they decide to vote on it on its merits than the treaty will pass,” said Oelrich.
Oelrich thinks it is unlikely, but not impossible that the Republicans will turn the New Start Treaty into a partisan issue. If they do however, he argues that it would have a “devastating” effect on US-Russia relations.
The American population, in large part, is unaware of the New START Treaty, what it is and what it does.
“I think it is because there is this presumption that when the Cold War ended between the US and the Soviet Union, and then Russia, that people just seemed to imagine that all of these nuclear weapons just magically went away,” said Oelrich.
Oelrich explains that Americans are more concerned and aware of North Korea and Iran, but they are unaware the US and Russia still control over 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Speaking on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, Oelrich argued that the US needs a new mechanism for engagement.
“We have to offer Iran an escape route and I don’t think that we have done that yet. We have to give them a face saving way to back down,” said Oelrich.