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Clinton Presses Senate to Ratify Nuclear Arms Treaty with Russia

Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Sate Hillary Rodham Clinton talks about the status of the new START treaty, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP

Washington's scorching temperatures did not prevent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today from turning up the heat on her former colleagues in the United States Senate.

In a statement read to journalists at the State Department, Clinton urged her former colleagues to act favorably on "new START, " a nuclear arms treaty with Russia which was signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in April, but which needs to be ratified by the Senate (and Russia's Duma) before it goes into effect.

Clinton said once "new START" is ratified, it "will advance our national security and provide stability and predictability between the world's two leading nuclear powers."

While saying she was "confident" about ratification, Clinton also was emphatic about the Senate's need to act: "When the Senate returns [from summer recess], they must act, because our national security is at stake."

To answer questions which have concerned various senators, Clinton said 18 hearings have been held on the treaty, three classified briefings have taken place and answers to some 800 questions submitted for the record have been provided by the Obama administration.

Clinton called for bi-partisan support as has been the case with prior arms control treaties. She noted negotiations on this treaty were begun under President George W. Bush and she said "seven former commanders of the U.S. nuclear strategic planning effort have endorsed the new START treaty."

"This is a critical point," Clinton said. "Opposing ratification means opposing the inspections that provide us a vital window into Russia's arsenal. This treaty in no way does or will constrain our ability to modernize our nuclear enterprise or develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses for the sake of our security and for our friends, allies and partners."

Finally, Clinton argued that since the previous START treaty expired last December, "uncertainty" will increase.

"As time passes, uncertainty will increase. With uncertainty comes unpredictability, which, when you're dealing with nuclear weapons, is absolutely a problem that must be addressed. Ratifying the new START treaty will prevent that outcome," she added.

Ratification requires 67 votes in the Senate. So far, Indiana's Richard Lugar is the only Republican publicly committed to support ratification. That means the administration needs to hold all 59 Democrats and independents and find at least another half a dozen Republicans before "new START" is ratified. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes up the issue in mid-September.

Charles Wolfson is CBS News' State Department Reporter.
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