HINTS OF PROGRESS ON NEW START?…. As recently as Sunday, Senate Republicans said the pending arms control treaty with Russia, New START, was all but dead for the year. Yesterday, there were some renewed reasons for optimism.

President Obama’s hopes of winning Senate approval for a new arms control treaty with Russia by the end of the year were encouraged on Tuesday by two Republican senators, including John McCain.

Mr. McCain, one of his party’s leading voices on national security, said he thought that Republican concerns over missile defense and nuclear modernization could be resolved in time to vote on the so-called New Start treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress this month, as Mr. Obama has sought. […]

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, also suggested that the treaty’s chances were improving. “I believe personally that we can do it,” he said on Tuesday at a forum sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine. “I think we will get it done, providing a few small pieces come together in the next few days.”

By some measures, there were actually three Senate Republicans who made encouraging comments yesterday. McCain got things started in the morning, suggesting ratification this year is still a possibility, and he was soon followed by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who said he’s prepared to vote for the treaty. By late in the afternoon, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) not only praised the Obama administration’s efforts, but also said success in the lame-duck session is still possible.

There was a bit of a curveball yesterday, with reports that Russia moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to sites near NATO allies earlier this year — a revelation that Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) seized on to bolster opposition to New START.

But Kyl may be confused about the larger dynamic. The arms treaty addresses long-range strategic nuclear weapons, not shorter-range tactical nuclear weapons. Officials from Russia and the United States have hoped to begin talks on how to also limit these shorter-range weapons, also, but that can’t and won’t happen until the New START process is complete.

In other words, if Kyl is looking for progress on these tactical nukes, he’ll have to drop his nonsensical opposition to progress on strategic nukes. The revelations about Russia’s latest efforts aren’t a rationale for opposing New START; they’re the opposite.

Regardless, while it looked up until very recently like the treaty was a goner, yesterday offered some hints of progress. At this point, I’ll take good news where I can find it.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.