President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama reflects on his legacy as presidency comes to an end Confirm Gary Richard Brown for the Eastern District of New York Megyn Kelly: Trump and First Amendment 'not a beautiful match' MORE described the deal negotiated with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as the “most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”
The treaty cuts by one-third the nuclear arms deployed by the U.S. and Russia, and significantly reduces missiles and missile launchers, Obama said.
The treaty will need to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, where passage is not assured. Senators are expected to focus on the treaty’s assurances of verification of missile cuts in Russia.
“My administration will be consulting senators from both parties as we prepare for what I hope will be strong, bipartisan support to ratify the new START treaty,” he said.
The agreement caps an extraordinary week for Obama, who on Tuesday signed a healthcare bill into law after a year of debate.
Obama and his Russian counterpart had haggled over the new arms agreement after the existing treaty expired last December. The president announced that he and Medvedev will meet in Prague on April 8 to sign the agreement.
Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part because of his promises to reduce nuclear arms.
Obama and his national security team told reporters Friday that they
are confident the new treaty will encounter little resistance on
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pentagon Chief Robert Gates stressed that senators were briefed throughout the negotiations with the Russians, and Obama said his aides would be reaching out senators throughout the day Friday.
Clinton said she expects "very broad, bipartisan support" for ratification despite the poisonous partisan environment still festering from the healthcare debate.
"National security has always produced large, bipartisan majorities, and I see no reason why this should be any different," Clinton said.
Gates said that during the negotiations, the two big areas of concern for Congress were that the treaty would limit future U.S. missile defense efforts and weaken American plans to maintain a reliable nuclear stockpile.
"We have addressed both of those," Gates said. "I think the prospects [of ratification] are quite good."
Kerry said he will
appeal to all our colleagues to set aside preconceptions and partisanship and
consider the treaty on its merits."
“I know there has been a partisan breakdown in recent years, but we can renew the Senate’s bipartisan tradition on arms control and approve ratification of this new treaty in 2010," Kerry said. "I know that can happen. This is a moment for statesmanship."
treaty will also have to be agreed to by the Russian Duma, and Clinton
joked that the president was willing to lend Medvedev his number one
arm-twister should the Russian president need help convincing Russian
lawmakers to get on board.
"I think President Obama has said he will send Rahm Emanuel to Moscow," Clinton joked, drawing laughs from the White House briefing room.
This story was updated at 11:53 a.m.