Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Ratifies U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Treaty

Reaching out to improve relations with the United States, the State Duma on Wednesday voted to ratify a landmark nuclear arms control treaty that slashes the nuclear arsenals of both countries by two-thirds.

After considering it in closed-door debate, the Duma approved the treaty by a 294-134 vote, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters.

The U.S. Senate approved the accord, formally called the Moscow Treaty, in March, but the Duma postponed the vote amid criticism of the U.S. war in Iraq.

The Federation Council must still approve the treaty in order for the ratification to take effect, but that vote is expected to be a formality.

President Vladimir Putin used a meeting Tuesday with Duma leaders to urge deputies to ratify the treaty, calling it an "important document in the sphere of strategic stability."

The Moscow Treaty calls on Russia and the United States to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads, by 2012.

Centrist and liberal factions backed the treaty Wednesday, saying it is advantageous for Russia because it would have to decommission many aging nuclear missiles anyway.


Dmitry Rogozin

"This treaty is more important for us than the Americans," said Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Duma's international affairs committee.

But Communists and their hard-line allies who voted against the treaty pointed at its provision that allows each country to stockpile the warheads, which are to be taken off-duty, contrary to Russia's initial push for their destruction. The military cannot afford to maintain nuclear arsenals on par with the United States.

"Blood on the streets of Baghdad hasn't drained yet and we are ratifying this treaty," Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov told reporters before the vote. "This treaty is a gift to Bush."

Putin will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at an informal one-day summit in St. Petersburg on June 1.

The ratification debate was conducted behind closed doors in the presence of the foreign and defense ministers. Putin's representative to the Duma, Alexander Kotenkov, suggested that a closed debate would allow deputies to get answers to sensitive questions related to Russian nuclear forces.

The treaty's supporters say it will allow Russia to retain its Soviet-built missiles equipped with multiple nuclear warheads, which form the core of the nation's nuclear arsenals and were to be scrapped under the earlier START II arms reduction treaty. Russia never ratified that accord.

"It will allow the Russian military to plan the development of strategic nuclear forces proceeding from national interests," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after the vote.


Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov

In the ratification documents, the Duma urged the government to provide more funds to maintain the nation's nuclear forces on a "level that would guarantee deterrence against any aggression."

Pointing to the treaty's provision that allows each party to opt out of it on three months' notice, the Duma said Russia can use this right in case of a "significant buildup in strategic offensive weapons of some nation or a group of nations" or the deployment of a missile defense system "capable of significantly reducing the efficiency of Russia's strategic nuclear forces."

Although it did not name the United States, the provision was a clear reference to the proposed U.S. missile shield. Washington says that deploying missile defenses is not aimed against Russia, but many Russian lawmakers and military officials voiced concern that the deployment could erode the deterrent value of Russia's nuclear arsenals.