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New START treaty: Sen. Kerry as statesman

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Credit: mv2/ZUMA Press/Newscom

(Read caption) Democratic Sen. John Kerry (left) and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (right) on Dec. 21, when it became clear that the Senate had the votes to ratify the START arms control agreement. "This would not have happened without bipartisanship," Senator Kerry told reporters that day.

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In 2004, what Sen. John Kerry wanted most was to become president of the United States. In 2008, after the election of Barack Obama, he wanted to become secretary of state. In this December week of 2010, the senator from Massachusetts has proven his statesmanship and value to the country without ever having had a crack at those two other jobs.

It took a full-court press from the White House to get the Senate to ratify the "new START" nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia today. But it also took much behind-the-scenes work from Democrat Kerry, who has exhibited the diplomacy, patience, and attention to detail of a skilled statesman.

As nuclear arms agreements go, this is a relatively minor one. It follows on previous arms-control treaties by reducing the strategic nuclear weapons of Russia and the US by about 30 percent. Its greatest value is that it restores monitoring of each country's nuclear arsenals, which lapsed with last year's expiration of the previous treaty. Delay or defeat would have jeopardized the warming in US-Russia relations and a host of related national security issues.

Ratification should have been fairly quick since its signing last April. The treaty accumulated a stack of bipartisan endorsements from America's security community. But as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry found himself shepherding this treaty through the valley of the shadow of death.

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