(RFE/RL) — The U.S. Senate is expected to vote to ratify the new strategic nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia.
A motion to move to a final vote on the treaty passed with 67 votes in the 100-member Senate on December 21.
At least 67 votes will be needed in the chamber to approve the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the final vote, expected as early as December 22.
At least 12 Republican senators have said they will join President Barack Obama’s Democrats in voting for the pact.
The Senate’s third-ranking Republican, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said he would vote for the treaty because President Barack Obama had pledged to modernize the remaining U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“I will vote to ratify the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia because it leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to kingdom come, and because the president has committed to an 85 billion dollar 10-year plan to make sure that those weapons work,” Alexander told the Senate.
Ratification of the treaty would be a breakthrough in Obama’s drive to improve ties with Moscow and curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The treaty, signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April in Prague, would require the United States and Russia to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads by about 30 percent to no more than 1,550 each within seven years.
It would also clear the way for the two former Cold War rivals to resume inspections of each other’s nuclear arsenals.
Medvedev said today he hoped the United States would ratify the treaty.
Medvedev, who was speaking in Mumbai, India, also said that if Russia failed to find its place in a joint NATO-Russia missile-defense system, very difficult decisions would have to be made by both sides in the next three to five years.
The accord also must be approved by Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, to take effect.