Chief negotiator: US hopes for overwhelming Senate approval of arms control treaty with Russia

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

US seeks big vote on Russia nuclear arms pact

UNITED NATIONS — The Obama administration is hoping for an overwhelming Senate vote this year to ratify the new arms control treaty with Russia, the chief U.S. negotiator said Tuesday.

Rose Gottemoeller said chances for ratification of the New START Treaty in the “lame duck” session after the November midterm elections are “good.”

She pointed to the 14-4 bipartisan vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month which sent the treaty to the full Senate, and the administration’s efforts to build support including answering about 900 questions from senators and holding 18 hearings and four major briefings.

Gottemoeller recalled that the 1992 START treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the United States and then Soviet Union was the last major treaty ratified by the Senate on Oct. 1, 1992.

“We are hoping that we will have the same kind of vote which was the vote for the START treaty, 95-0 against,” she said. “We’re looking for that kind of vote this time around as well.”

Gottemoeller, the assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, spoke to reporters after addressing the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee where she said that in addition to pressing for a vote “as soon as possible,” the U.S. wants to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban production of atomic bomb material and try again to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty.

Progress on the New START treaty has been slow since President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed it in April. It would reduce the limit on strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would set new procedures that allow both countries to inspect each other’s arsenals to verify compliance.

When Gottemoeller was asked whether there were any chances for the treaty to be ratified this year, she replied: “Absolutely, yes.”

She added that Obama’s goal is to get the treaty “ratified and on its way to entering into force by the end of this year.”

Gottemoeller reiterated a warning that either the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament gets moving on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty which would ban production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium or it would consider other options.

The warning was aimed at Pakistan, which has blocked negotiations in the main arms control forum where just one delegation can prevent the required consensus.

Gottemoeller wouldn’t say what the options might be, but she said the U.S. would be discussing them with other countries in the General Assembly’s disarmament committee.

On the sidelines of the General Assembly’s recent ministerial meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted a meeting to try to break the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament — a move Gottemoeller welcomed, saying it had “given a little boost to the momentum.”

“We’re hopeful that it will cause all concerned to take a fresh look at these issues, but specifically our colleagues in Pakistan,” she said.

Gottemoeller said the United States is also preparing to resubmit the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification.

The Senate refused to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty in 1999. But she said since then the international monitoring system has been built up and the overall verification capabilities are now “tremendously enhanced.”

will not be displayed