U.S. ratification of the new START treaty may be delayed until after the midterm elections to Congress as Senate Republicans seek increased influence over the White House, a U.S. expert on Russian-American relations says.
"The Republicans will want to put off the ratification of the treaty until after the midterm elections in the hopes that those elections will increase their leverage vis-a-vis the White House," Thomas Graham, a senior director at consulting firm Kissinger Associates, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
The new START treaty, signed on April 8 in Prague, replaces the 1991 pact that expired in December. The deal is expected to bring Moscow and Washington to a new level of cooperation in the field of nuclear disarmament and arms control.
Thirty-six of the 100 seats in the Senate are up for election in November's U.S. midterm polls, with the Republicans expected to significantly improve on their current tally of 41 senators. The Democrats need Republican support to reach the 67 votes required to ratify the treaty, so even before the elections the Republicans have a strong hand.
"I do not believe that this treaty will be ratified quickly, although I do believe it will be eventually ratified," Graham said. "Two complex and controversial issues will dominate the debate: the future of the American nuclear arsenal and the Obama administration's Russia policy."
"Republicans will want to press the administration to commit to modernizing the nuclear forces, even as its size is being reduced, and they will seek assurances that the administration is still committed to missile defense," he said.
Graham said Republicans would also raise the question of Moscow's support of Washington's efforts in the UN Security Council to increase sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
The new treaty on strategic arms cuts stipulates that the number of nuclear warheads be reduced to 1,550 on each side over seven years, while the number of delivery vehicles, both deployed and non-deployed, must not exceed 800.
The pact must be approved by both houses of the Russian parliament and by the U.S. Senate to come into force.
NEW YORK, May 13 (RIA Novosti by Dmitry Gornostaev)