THE dying days of 2010 were lit up with hope on Wednesday when President Obama won Congressional ratification of the New Start arms reduction treaty which he signed with President Medvedev of Russia last April. It was a remarkable achievement for a President who, only two months ago, did so poorly in the mid-term elections. He needed a two-thirds majority in the Senate for ratification and got it by 71-26 votes, helped by 13 Republicans who backed the President rather than their own party leaders. Now it falls to the Russian Duma to ratify the treaty, presumably a formality. Under the treaty both Russia and the United States will reduce their stock of nuclear warheads from 2'200 to 1'500 and monitoring and verification of this process are among its provisions.
This nuclear arms deal is a personal triumph for Barack Obama. He put nuclear disarmament at the front of his election campaign in 2008 and has made it a priority since he entered the White House. The agreement with Russia on this basic issue and the mutual confidence it should generate also make possible a re-set in relations between the two countries in other areas. At home this progress should reassure those who have lost faith in Obama to deliver on his promises. Although his prospects for re-election have certainly been improved he still needs economic recovery and more jobs before he can be sure of it.