Signed, Sealed & Delivered

By John Liang / February 2, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Following a long, drawn-out debate and passage in the Senate, President Obama this morning signed the follow-on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty into law.

"With the Senate having approved the treaty with a strong bipartisan vote late last year, today's signing marks a final step in the process," a White House public affairs blog entry states.

Both houses of Russia's parliament ratified the New START Treaty last week, but as Inside Missile Defense reported recently, implementing the pact could prove difficult, according to a nonproliferation policy expert:

"The Russian parliament's resolution on ratification of New START, which was deliberately shaped to balance and counter its counterpart adopted by the U.S. Senate, suggests that implementation of New START will not be a trivial task," Nikolai Sokov, an analyst with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, writes in a Jan. 25 analysis of the Russian parliament's deliberations. "In effect, the treaty did not resolve the most important controversies that exist between the two countries -- missile defense, long-range conventional weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, elements of the verification regime (especially the exchange of telemetry). Each side will carefully monitor what the other will be doing throughout the duration of the treaty. The Bilateral Implementation Commission will not be simply a technical body facilitating the implementation of the treaty -- it will have to engage in full-scale negotiations on issues of substance with parties often pursuing opposite positions."

Further, "the next stage of nuclear arms reduction talks is already shaping as a challenging and controversial endeavor as well, because it will have to address many of the outstanding issues, on which New START has temporized or which were 'swept under the carpet,' according to Sokov. "In addition, new talks will probably have to tackle the issue of 'third parties' -- nuclear weapons states that have traditionally remained outside the process, most significantly China and, to a smaller extent, Great Britain and France. Even before they sit down to these new talks, however, negotiators may have their work cut out for them."