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“It’s not that we will turn back, but any further moves toward cooperation will be unlikely,” he told The Associated Press.

Dmitry Trenin, head of the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow office, said Russia will continue to cooperate with Obama, but show more caution. “The relations will be stable and businesslike, but limited in depth and scope,” he said.

The nuclear arms deal signed in April by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would reduce strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country from the current ceiling of 2,200 and restore onsite inspections and other verification measures that ceased when the previous START treaty expired nearly a year ago.

Trenin said that the unraveling of arms control would erode stability.

“It’s always dangerous to have nuclear arsenals of two major powers develop without proper information exchange,” he said. “That would reduce the level of predictability.”

Rogov warned that the termination of inspections would prompt each country to overestimate the other’s potential, as happened during the Cold War. “If on-the-ground inspections aren’t restored, both the U.S. and Russia will have to proceed from the worst-case scenario as they did before the first arms control agreements were reached in the early 1970s,” he said.

Rogov and other observers also warned that failure to put New START into force would ruin hopes for global nuclear disarmament and encourage the spread of atomic weapons.

“The world is no longer bipolar, and the collapse of the U.S.-Russian arms control mechanism will turn the multipolar world into multipolar chaos, as no one else would be able to persuade other nuclear powers to accept at least some rules of the game,” Rogov said. “The consequences of the New START collapse could be extremely grave.”

Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies that includes some of Russia’s top political and military analysts, said that if the treaty fails in the Senate, Obama and Medvedev might agree to implement its provisions by executive orders. He added, however, that many in Russian officialdom would likely oppose that, arguing it would make no sense to fulfill the deal at a time when the U.S. policy may change soon.

Some said the arms treaty’s collapse would play into the hands of hawks in the Russian government and weaken Medvedev, who has pushed for better ties with the U.S.

“It will raise doubts about the ‘reset’ and undermine positions of Medvedev who placed his bets on that,” said Sergei Markov, a leading lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.