US Senate won't link START to seized Humvees

22nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The US Senate on Tuesday defeated an effort to tie a demand that Russia return five US military vehicles seized by its forces in the 2008 Georgia conflict to a landmark nuclear arms control treaty.

Lawmakers voted 61-32 to set aside an measure by Republican Senator James Risch calling on Moscow to give back the Humvees before the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) goes into force.

Risch's proposal called for President Barack Obama to certify to the US Congress that Russia "has returned to the United States all military equipment owned by the United States that was confiscated during the Russian invasion of the Republic of Georgia in August 2008."

The lawmaker said Moscow should want to return the vehicles if it is serious about embracing Obama's call for a "reset" in relations.

"Do you want to continue to be thieves, or do you want to be honest about this and do you want to deliver up the goods that you have stolen," Risch said.

According to witnesses, five Humvees with the letters USMC -- the initials of the US Marine Corps -- emblazoned on them were taken by Russian forces in the Georgian port of Poti, on the Black Sea.

The Pentagon has said the vehicles had been used in a military exercise and were awaiting shipment out of the country when fighting erupted between Georgia and Russia.

A Russian newspaper said the vehicles contained sophisticated satellite communications gear and had been flown to Moscow to be examined.

Risch's measure would have been attached to the treaty's resolution of ratification, not the accord itself, meaning it would not have effectively killed START by requiring new negotiations.

© 2010 AFP

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