The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] voted 350-59 on Friday to approve the New START nuclear arms treaty [materials, PDF; JURIST news archive] with the US, after just hours of debate. The New START treaty replaces the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [materials], with Russia and the US each pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol, both countries would only be allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted. Russian experts call the treaty the most significant development in modern US-Russian relations [LA Times report]. The government will likely approve treaty in full this January.
On Wednesday, the US Senate [official website] voted 71-26 [JURIST report] to ratify the treaty. US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague in April. The agreement, reached [JURIST report] in February, is the first nuclear agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years. The US State Department began negotiating [JURIST report] the treaty with Russia in 2009. Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, whose nuclear arsenals comprise 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, languished during the Bush administration. The treaty is considered a key part of easing tensions between the two countries, which reached a high point after the 2008 Georgia conflict [BBC backgrounder].