The New START treaty may only display the signatures of President Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, but its foreign-policy implications stretch far beyond the two nations. If Congress fails to ratify it, the most worrisome effect could be a cozier relationship between Russia and Iran.
As Republican senators, led by Arizona's Jon Kyl, voice doubts over ratifying the arms-reduction treaty during Congress's lame duck session, momentum for the treaty has stalled.
"This is a pivotal moment in not just U.S.-Russia relations, but also in Iranian-Russian relations. We don't want to upset the current trajectory of where things are going, and that's exactly what Sen. Kyl threatens to do," says Max Bergmann, a nuclear non-proliferation policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.
After the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008, when U.S.- Russian relations reached its worst point since the Cold War, the Obama administration has sought to improve that relationship, with the START treaty as an important piece of the puzzle.
With that progress has come less Russian support for Iran, a key to the administration's fight to strangle Iran in its quest for nuclear power.
This past spring, Russia supported the UN Security Council Resolution to impose strict sanctions on Iran. In September, Medvedev agreed to not fulfill a standing contract of selling advanced air defense--S-300 surface-to-air missiles--to Iran. The contract was suspended, but not terminated. "Russia [was] willing to forgo money in order to make Iran's nuclear weapons infrastructure more vulnerable to attack," explains Micah Zenko, a fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations. Russia pursued a tougher policy toward Iran in part because of the "reset" in its relationship with the U.S. This was a stark contrast to its earlier funding of Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor.