START expiration ends U.S. inspection of Russian nuclear bases

Tuesday - 8/17/2010, 11:53am EDT

For the first time in 15 years, U.S. officials have lost their ability to inspect Russian long-range nuclear bases, where they had become accustomed to peering into missile silos, counting warheads and whipping out tape measures to size up rockets. The inspections had occurred every few weeks under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. But when START expired in December, the checks stopped. Meanwhile, in an obscure, fluorescent-lighted State Department office staffed round-the-clock, a stream of messages from Russia about routine movements of its nuclear missiles and bombers has slowed to a trickle. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration hopes the inspections and messages will soon resume under the New START agreement, which was signed by the two countries in April. But the pact is on hold in the Senate. If it faces long delays, or is voted down, the U.S. government will lose critical insight into Russia's nuclear forces, officials say.

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