The Federation Council, Russia’s upper parliament chamber, unanimously passed a bill required for ratification of the New START treaty, which Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed in April 2010. The treaty, approved by the US Senate last month and by Russia’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday, will commit the countries to ceilings of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads in seven years. It limits each side to 700 deployed long-range missiles and bombers and establishes verification rules, absent since the US-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) expired in 2009, enabling them to keep tabs on each other’s arsenals.
“The alternative is an uncontrolled arms race,” the head of the Federation Council’s defense committee, Viktor Ozerov, told fellow lawmakers before the vote. All 137 deputies present in the 186-seat chamber supported ratification. The warhead caps are up to 30 percent lower than those set by the 2002 Moscow Treaty and down nearly two-thirds from START I, signed in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed. The 10-year treaty will leave the nations with more than enough firepower to create a nuclear catastrophe, but it sets the stage for potential talks on further cuts that could eventually include other nuclear-armed nations.