The US Senate has approved the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, aimed at levelling arms between the US and Russia.

US Defense Secretary Robert M Gates stated earlier that the treaty will enhance stability with lower numbers of nuclear weapons while providing an inspection regime, including on-site access to Russian missile silos.

The treaty allows the countries to conduct about 18 short-notice, on-site inspections annually.

It also allows ten ‘Type 1’ inspections, focusing on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and bombers, and up to eight ‘Type 2’ inspections, covering storage sites and test ranges.

The treaty covers data exchanges on technical characteristics, locations and distribution of weapons, and the reporting of any changes in the status of strategic systems by timely notifications and biannual reports.

The treaty mandates that 35 Russian and 17 US facilities are subject to inspections with each side required to give 32hr notice before a short-notice inspection, during normal working hours.

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The previous treaty between Russia and the US ended a year ago.