U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said Friday they support the strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty negotiated between the United States and Russia, known as New START. Both Maine Republicans had resisted officially supporting the treaty during interviews with MaineToday Media last week until their remaining concerns had been addressed.

 

The treaty calls for both countries to reduce their nuclear stockpiles to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads, 700 deployed delivery vehicles and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers. It also allows each side to monitor compliance by establishing new inspection and verification procedures. A similar treaty that was ratified by the Senate in 1992 has been expired for about one year.

“I am confident that New START will provide predictability in our relationship with Russia and thus enhance global stability, and most importantly, our national security,” Snowe said in a statement released Friday morning.

Snowe, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she has scrutinized the agreement and is satisfied that classified matters were properly vetted.

“Much has changed since the original START was first negotiated in 1991, and as a result I have supported efforts to make certain that questions regarding our ability to verify Russian compliance with the treaty’s limits, to develop and deploy effective missile defenses and to modernize our nuclear weapons complex have been satisfactorily resolved,” she said.

Last week, Snowe had said it was “absolutely vital” to create “more stability in the nuclear arena.”

Collins, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also announced her support for the treaty.

She had written a letter to U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates last week airing concerns about the number of Russian tactical nuclear weapons. After receiving a letter back and speaking with U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton by telephone on Thursday, Collins said she was satisfied with the agreement.

“I support the president’s commitment to reduce not only the number of strategic nuclear weapons through the New START treaty, but also to reduce, in the future, those weapons that are most vulnerable to theft and misuse – and those are tactical nuclear weapons,” she said in a statement.

Snowe and Collins join fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Luger of Indiana in publicly supporting the arms treaty.