START It up, and Don't Stop Until Prague

As reported here last week, the United States and Russia were this close to formalizing an historical arms control agreement. The one sticking point was that the U.S. wanted Russia to regularly provide data about the locations of their mobile missile launchers.

Russia wasn't inclined to do so because those launchers are strategically positioned, and Russian defense hawks were disinclined to provide so much information about conventional Russian defense strategy. But as of today, the basic wording of the agreement, which would reduce the number of viable nuclear warheads in the world by several thousand, has been agreed to, according to U.S. officials and their Russian counterparts. The New York Times, noting the domestic political importance of the agreement, says this:

A new arms control treaty would also be politically valuable for the White House, joining the new health-care legislation Mr. Obama signed on Tuesday in demonstrating progress on both foreign and domestic issues after months of frustration over unmet goals.

If March was health care care month, then April, presuming that there is a finalized START treaty and that it is signed in Prague by leaders of the two countries, will be nuclear month -- the administration plans to release its Nuclear Posture Review, hold a nuclear security summit in Washington, the Senate plans to begin debate on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and preparations begin for a major review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  Both the Russian parliament and the U.S. Congress would have to ratify the START follow-on treaty before it took effect.  "This agreement will set the stage for further cuts in U.S. and Russian arsenals and multilateral negotiations for reductions by all nuclear weapons countries," said Richard Burt, an original START treaty negotiator, in a statement.