The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament welcomed today’s vote in the Russian State Duma to approve the START nuclear arms reduction treaty. The plan now moves on to the upper house – the Federation Council – which may consider it as soon as tomorrow.

The vote comes a day after President Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO over its missile defence plans. Medvedev announced that Russia would deploy its own missile defence system and adopt a more offensive nuclear posture, to secure adequate protection for Russia, if it were not given an equal role in the NATO system initiated by Washington. The US administration has insisted that the system is designed to counter potential threats from Iran, but its continued refusal to accept Russian offers of cooperation has reinforced widespread views that Russia is actually the target.

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “The treaty’s passage through the Duma is excellent news. We look forward to a speedy final ratification by the upper house, which will bring this landmark agreement into force. The new START treaty must now be followed-up with further bilateral and multilateral steps. Obama and Medvedev’s initiative has given vital impetus to the global disarmament process and its final enactment is a sign of hope for a more secure future.

“However positive this vote is, Medvedev’s statement on missile defence shows how fragile this process is. NATO’s proposed missile defence system in Europe is clearly still a major concern for Russia. It continues to have the potential to trigger a disastrous spiral of ‘defensive’ moves which block further disamament and could restart the arms race of the past. Russia’s strong warning, calling for ‘direct and unambiguous answers’ from NATO highlights the fact that missile defence remains a highly destabilising concept, regardless of its exact configuration or partners.”