Obama finds support for arms treaty at NATO meeting

President Obama has gathered up support among several of America's foreign allies for a stalled arms treaty that needs to be ratified here in Washington.

At a NATO meeting in Lisbon, Portugal this weekend, Obama has said he has heard from fellow leaders of state that the START Treaty needs to be approved. The agreement would reduce both America’s and Russia’s nuclear arms as well as put U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia to verify the size and scope of that country’s arsenal.

“But just as this is a national security priority for the United States, the message that I’ve received since I’ve arrived from my fellow leaders here at NATO could not be clearer —New START will strengthen our alliance and it will strengthen European security,” Obama said Friday.

Obama and his aides have said a failure to approve the treaty would threaten not just America’s national security, but Europe’s as well.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters Friday that there is a “broad consensus” that having the treaty ratified enhances Europe’s security.

“The ability of the United States and Russia to work together, but also NATO and Russia to reset their relationship is in the interest of all of Europe, because it adds stability to, again, European security and also allows us to move forward with issues like Iran sanctions and Afghan transit that have been fundamental priorities for us,” Rhodes said.

Consequently, the White House has highlighted support for the agreement among the United States’s foreign allies at the NATO meeting. Wanting the pact to be approved before the end of this year, the Obama administration is looking for Senate action this lame-duck session.

In Lisbon, Obama noted Friday the support of Polish Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski for the START Treaty. The president quoted the polish foreign minister saying the agreement would “bolster our country’s security, and that of Europe as a whole.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said that NATO countries should thank Obama for negotiating the arms treaty. She wishes the agreement “would also be ratified,” according to press reports.

In addition, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that “a delay of the ratification of the START treaty would be damaging to security in Europe.”

Several other foreign ministers have expressed support for the START treaty at the NATO meeting. Ministers from Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway have gotten behind the agreement in Lisbon.

The treaty has stalled here in the Senate as Republican senators have expressed concerns about the pact. At least 67 votes in upper chamber are needed to ratify the agreement so several GOP lawmakers will have to vote for it if it is to pass.

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