After months of fussing and fighting, hemming and hawing, the United States Senate did the entire planet a solid and pledged to cut America's stash of nuclear weapons.
By ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the U.S. is agreeing to reduce its atomic arsenal to the still-robust 1,550 mankind-eradicating weapons, with Russia set to follow suit.
Despite calls for the treaty’s passage from such diverse names as President Obama and former President George H.W. Bush, current and former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, and Henry Kissinger, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and General Colin Powell, this one almost didn’t make it.
Thankfully, with a little help from common sense and the general public, START eked out a victory in the U.S. Senate, passing by a margin of 71-26.
Santa may have the gift-giving thing all sewn up, but to our recollection, he’s never made the world a safer place.
And for that, we’d happily forgo a seat on Santa's lap to smooch Capitol Hill under the mistletoe.
Here’s what the U.S. and Russia can expect when New START rolls out:
- Sets New Limits on Deployed Strategic Weapons to 1,550 Each: Deployed means active, and strategic refers to the sort of nuke big enough to take out a beloved world city. The treaty doesn’t cover tactical nukes, nor does it require nukes to actually be destroyed; instead, they must be removed from their delivery systems and stored somewhere secure, preferably with a padlock.
- Sets New Limits on Missile Delivery Systems: Missiles, bombers, subs, and hoagies—whatever can carry a nuclear warhead, it’s about to be cut. The treaty permits each nation 800 missiles aboard submarines, bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. There is, however, some tricky math in calculating weapons: the new treaty counts each nuclear bomber as one nuke, so a B-52 that can carry 20 warheads is equivalent a single weapon.
- Restores Transparent Inspections and Verification: When the old START expired at the end of 2009, the U.S. and Russia gave up a program that allowed them to insepect each other’s stockpiles. New START restores the old system of look-a-loos, with some added provisions to keep all things nuclear holocaust above board.