The New START arms pact — so called because it is the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia (the first was proposed by President Ronald Reagan but wasn’t signed until 1991 and expired in 2009) — is now signed, sealed and delivered.

Or it will be, as soon as the Russian parliament gives its stamp of approval, and it is unlikely not to say yes to things the nation’s leaders want.

In this case, that’s a good thing. The treaty continues the past practice of mutual verification of arms reduction procedures and results, giving each side the “trust, but verify” capability that Reagan famously championed. It calls for strategic nuclear warheads to be reduced to 1,550, from the current ceiling of 2,200, and gained strong support in the Senate.

Sixty-seven votes were required to ratify it, but it received 71, including the support of 13 Republicans, including Maine’s Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

While the treaty restores the status quo of continued reductions and verification procedures, analysts said that both sides may be reluctant to reduce arsenals further, considering that nations such as North Korea and Iran are not responsive to efforts to have them either quit producing such arms or refrain from trying to develop them.

In addition, the pact does not restrain tactical nuclear weapons, of which Russia has substantially more than the United States, and the issue of a “missile shield” to defend Europe and the United States from attack by rogue nations remains very much in dispute.

However, continued discussions over those issues are secondary now to the achievement recorded this week in Washington.

A bipartisan spirit prevailed in a key area of foreign policy, showing that the strong tradition of “politics stopping at the water’s edge” continues to carry great weight in our corridors of power.

 


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