- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia‘s lower house of parliament on Tuesday ratified a landmark nuclear arms pact with the United States that earlier was approved by the U.S. Senate.

The State Duma voted 350-96 with one abstention to pass a ratification bill of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The pact now will go to the upper house for final approval.

The New START would limit each country to 1,550 strategic warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200, and also re-establish a system for monitoring that ended with the expiration of a previous arms control pact.

The treaty’s passage never has been in doubt in the Kremlin-controlled parliament, but Russian lawmakers wanted to counter a U.S. Senate resolution that accompanied its December ratification with a similar motion.

Just like the Senate resolution that raised some Republican concerns about the pact without directly affecting it, the Russian ratification bill wouldn’t interfere with the deal.

While the Senate resolution said the treaty shouldn’t restrict U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system, the Duma ratification bill stated that the treaty can be fulfilled only if emerging missile defenses don’t erode the Russian nuclear deterrent.

The Russian draft bill also mimicked the Senate resolution that mentioned increased funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal by emphasizing the need to modernize Russia‘s nuclear forces.

Neither the Senate nor the Duma resolution would affect the text of the treaty, which is a centerpiece of President Obama’s efforts to “reset” ties with Russia.

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