I’ve always maintained that the Obama Administration deserves praise for their goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the planet. Now we’re getting sometangible action on that front.

The U.S. and Russia reached a breakthrough agreement Wednesday for a historic treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the former Cold War rivals, the most significant pact in a generation and an important milestone in the decades-long quest to lower the risk of global nuclear war.

After long and trying negotiations, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are to sign the treaty in two weeks in Prague, once final technical details are worked out, officials in Washington and Moscow said. The accord is expected to cut the number of long-range nuclear weapons held by each side to about 1,500, and it raises hopes for further disarmament in the years ahead.

The signing will come almost a year to the day from when Obama announced his vision of a nuclear-free world, also in Prague, last April.

The US and Russia hold most of the world’s nuclear weapons, and this reduction in stockpiles would lower the total nukes on the planet by about 25%.

The catch? The deal, a follow-on to the 1991 START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), would need ratification from the US Senate. That means 67 votes. President Obama met today with John Kerry and Richard Lugar, the Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to go over the agreement. Lugar may be swayed but the rest of the caucus? Robert Norris offers the understatement of the year:

Robert S. Norris, a longtime analyst of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, said Senate ratification would not be easy.

“Hard negotiations with the Russians will now be followed by hard negotiations with Republican senators to achieve ratification,” Norris said.

The promise of serious arms reduction is made real by this agreement, but we’re in for another round of obstruction to make it a reality.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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