It is time to add another major name to the list of those warning of dire consequences should certain obstinate politicians continue to punt the treaty's ratification: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Calling resistance to the treaty "dumb," Mr. Putin warned Wednesday that his country will find it necessary to build up its nuclear forces if the United States doesn't ratify the new arms reduction treaty, the Associated Press reports.
The treaty, called New START, was worked out this year amid praise that it marked a newly cooperative spirit between Washington and Moscow. Many Republicans in the U.S. Senate, led by senators John Kyl, R-Ariz., and George Voinivich, R-Ohio, however, are expressing reluctance to ratify it.
Mr. Putin warned in an interview with CNN's Larry King that if the U.S. does not ratify the treaty, his country will probably begin deploying more and new nuclear weapons technology.
"We've been simply saying that this is what all of us expects to happen if we don't agree on a joint effort there," said Mr. Putin, adding that it would take "a very dumb nature" for the United States to ignore its own interests -- but if it does, "then we'll have to react somehow."
On CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expressed optimism to anchor Harry Smith over avoiding that negative outcome.
"The START treaty will be done by Christmas," said Gibbs, answering questions about waning cooperation between political parties. "You've seen increasing willingness" to work together on it.
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START in April. The pact would cut each country's deployed nuclear warheads by approximately one-third, limiting each side to a maximum of 1,550 on no more than 700 launchers, and allow both nations to resume on-site inspections, the Associated Press reports.
Putin's comments come a day after President Dmitry Medvedev made a similar warning to the West on another defense issue, NATO's proposal to build a European missile defense system. Russia has been invited to participate in the system, but substantial questions remain, including whether Russia would be an equal partner with the Western alliance.
"In the next 10 years, the following alternatives await us: Either we reach agreement on missile defense and create a full joint cooperation mechanism, or, if we don't reach a constructive agreement, a new phase of the arms race will begin," Medvedev said Tuesday in his annual address to both houses of parliament. "And we will have to make a decision on deploying new means of attack."
In Washington, Republicans reluctant to ratify New START quickly said Tuesday the Obama administration had dealt with some of their misgivings, raising the prospect for U.S. Senate approval of the treaty.
President Barack Obama has insisted that completion of the treaty is a national security imperative, and he argued for the pact at a White House meeting with congressional leaders.
Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday that Obama administration officials responded late Monday night to several matters raised by Kyl and himself about modernization of the remaining U.S. nuclear arsenal and sufficient funds for safeguarding the stockpile.
In addition to their concerns about modernization, Republicans also have argued that the treaty would limit U.S. missile defense options.