Washington: Top leaders of the Opposition Republican Party on Thursday indicated that they would oppose the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) when it comes for ratification in the US Senate.
Billed as the historic treaty by the ruling Democrats and non-proliferation experts world over, the New START treaty was signed by President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Prague yesterday.
As per the treaty, both nations agreed to slash arsenals of strategic nuclear warheads. "Whatever our ultimate conclusions on the START follow-on treaty, we continue to believe it will be difficult for it to pass the Senate without the fully funded robust nuclear weapons modernisation programme required by section 1251 of the National Defence Authorization Act of 2010," the two top Republican Senators, John McCain and John Kyl, said in a statement.
Noting that under the treaty, Russia and the United States have reduced the number of warheads and verification procedures significantly, the two Senators said both of these changes will have ramifications on US force structure and intelligence that it will need to evaluate.
"While we were initially advised that the only reference to missile defence was in the preamble to the treaty, we now find that there are other references to missile defence, some of which could limit US actions," they said.
Further, the Russians have unilaterally declared that the article which allows either Russia or the US to withdraw from the treaty is intended to allow Russian withdrawal if it believes new US missile defence capabilities pose a threat to
its strategic nuclear forces.
"This has the potential to constrain improvements to US missile defences, if objected to by the Russians," McCain and Kyl said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, called for timely ratification of New START.
"Today`s (Thursday) signing of the START treaty strengthens our security while affirming the vital role the nuclear arsenal plays in our nation`s defence. I will work closely with Senator Lugar and our colleagues to see that this historic treaty is ratified this year," he said in a statement.
With the White House indicating that the full treaty will be completed and submitted to the Senate in early May, Kerry said he plans to begin hearings on the treaty in the coming weeks, and then report a proposed resolution of advice and consent to ratification out of the Foreign Relations Committee for approval by the full Senate as soon as possible.
"The Senate has a long history of approving strategic arms control treaties by overwhelming margins and I am confident we will renew that spirit of cooperation and bipartisan tradition on arms control and national security to approve ratification of this vital treaty. This is too important to delay," Kerry said.
Independent Senator, Joseph Lieberman, said his vote on the START Treaty will depend in large measure on whether he is convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernise the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions.
"I also remain deeply concerned that – regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper -- we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
“If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global non-proliferation regime," Lieberman said.