The Russian Parliament moved closer to endorsing the New START nuclear arms treaty with the United States on Friday, voting in second reading a ratification Bill that counters the strings the U.S. Senate attached to its ratification of the landmark pact.

The draft Bill, approved by the State Duma Lower House in a 341-to-nil vote, affirms Russia's right to withdraw from the New START if the U.S. or “any other state or a group of states” deploy missile defences “capable of substantially reducing the effectiveness of Russia's strategic nuclear forces”.

The provision seeks to reiterate the linkage between offensive and defensive strategic weapons included in the preamble of the New START but rejected in the U.S. ratification Bill.

“If this linkage is severed the stricken party will be forced to resort to the withdrawal option,” Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the State Duma.

The Russian Bill rejects the U.S. Senate claim that the New START does not affect U.S. plans to create a global strike capability using strategic delivery vehicles equipped with non-nuclear warheads. Russia will also pull out of the pact if this happens, the Russian legislators said.

“Any new types of non-nuclear strategic arms must be considered by the Bilateral Consultative Commission,” said Mr. Lavrov. “This is stated in black and white in the treaty.”

Russian legislators also dismissed the Senate call for a quick start of U.S.-Russia talks to cut short-range nuclear weapons, saying that any future negotiations must address issues like non-nuclear strategic weapons and potential weaponisation of space.

The State Duma will hold the third and final vote for ratifying the New START on January 25, after which the Bill will go to the Upper House.

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