The new START accord between Russia and the United States cleared its greatest hurdle on Wednesday after ratification by the US Senate. But a couple of obstacles still have to be cleared before it can come into force.
Medvedev welcomed the vote "with satisfaction"
Russian leaders on Thursday welcomed the ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) by the United States Senate, with top lawmakers saying the ratification process could start before the end of the week.
The news agency Interfax quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying the new START "will not only further Russian and US security, but it will have a positive effect on international security and stability."
A spokeswoman for President Dmitry Medvedev said he welcomed the ratification "with satisfaction" and "expressed hope that the Duma and Federation Council are ready to examine this question and ratify the document."
Under the accord, Russia and the United States pledge to cut their stockpile of active nuclear warheads to 1,550 within seven years, or about 30 percent from when the first START, signed in 1991, expired a year ago. Both countries would have the right to inspect the other's progress.
Members of the Duma may approve the new START this week
Medvedev and US President Barack Obama signed the new START in April after a year of negotiations between diplomats from the two countries.
Russian ratification near
The US Senate on Wednesday voted 71-26 to ratify the treaty, giving Obama a major foreign policy victory before the current Senate adjourns and his Democrats lose several seats to newly-elected Republicans in January.
Democratic leaders in the Senate allowed some non-binding amendments to the original document to secure more Republican support. These included a recommitment to deploying a missile defense system, modernization of the current nuclear arsenal and seeking new talks with Russia on limiting tactical nuclear weapons.
While there is some opposition to the treaty among opposition parties in the Duma, Medvedev's United Russia party enjoys a strong majority and the body was widely expected to approve it.
But Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, said Russian lawmakers would need to study and respond to the amendments made by their American counterparts before giving their final approval. The treaty's first reading and debate in the Duma was scheduled for December 24.
"Further work on the ratification bill will continue once the Duma resumes its work in January," news agencies quoted Kosachev as saying.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold