Clinton urges Senate to ratify nuclear deal with Russia
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Senate Thursday to support a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, assuring Republicans it would not undermine US missile defense plans.
"From the very beginning of the negotiations, this administration has been very clear. This treaty limits strategic offensive nuclear arms, not missile defenses," Clinton told senators.
"We share a strong belief that the new start treaty will make our country more secure and we urge the Senate to ratify it expeditiously."
She was among key members of President Barack Obama's administration arguing before the Senate Armed Services Committee for ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed with Russia on April 8.
Russia has said it reserves the right to withdraw from the treaty if Washington presses ahead with missile defense systems in eastern Europe in a way that Moscow opposes.
But Clinton said: "A unilateral statement made by Russia concerning missile defense does not limit or constrain our missile-defense efforts.
"Indeed, a US unilateral statement makes it clear that, quote, 'our missile-defense systems are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia,'" she said.
The statement also says US missile-defense systems would only "be employed to defend the United States against limited missile launches and to defend its deployed forces, allies and partners against regional threats," she added.
"The unilateral statement that we made also states that the United States intends to continue improving and deploying its missile-defense systems in order to defend itself against limited attack," she added.
Under the new pact, each nation will be allowed a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, about 30 percent lower than a limit set in 2002.
They are also restricted to 700 air, ground and submarine-launched nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But Republicans have cautioned they will oppose the pact if they think it will hamper US missile defense.
Treaty ratification needs 67 votes, but Democrats and their two independent allies hold only 59 seats in the 100-member Senate, meaning they will need to rally at least eight Republicans to their side.
© 2010 AFP