In a welcome move, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the new START arms-control treaty with Russia on Sept. 16, sending the agreement to the entire Senate for its “consent and approval.”

It is not clear when that vote will occur, but final approval of New START should not depend on whether Republicans have reclaimed a majority in the Senate following November’s midterm elections. The treaty is a welcome step forward in the process of reducing the number of nuclear weapons. It should be ratified.

New START was signed, after extended negotiations, by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last April. The treaty reduces by about 30 percent the two country’s arsenals of nuclear warheads, missiles and launchers. Critics complain that the treaty merely ratifies steps that the two countries are taking unilaterally and that much more can be done to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. They are right.

But New START is an important step. It re-establishes momentum and credibility in the arms-control process. It demonstrates the desire of the United States and Russia to make good on their pledge to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons, and puts pressure on the other “official” nuclear weapons states — China, Britain and France — to start thinking about when they will join broader arms reductions efforts. They have resisted inclusion, arguing that the primary responsibility rests with the U.S. and Russia as they possess 90 percent of the world’s strategic arsenals.

It’s time for them to get off the sidelines and join the talks. Disarmament demands the participation of all nuclear weapons states — even “gray states” such as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Progress in reducing nuclear arsenals also forces the nonnuclear states to do their part in helping halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technologies. A nuclear arms-free world is the responsibility of every government.

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