Posted by: Martin Fox | March 9, 2009

Russia pushes for new strategic arms pact with U.S.

The global cohesion activities continue to move forward. It’s amazing what happens when two sides move away from entrenched positions and begin constructive dialogue. Okay, maybe not so amazing, since this is the way we teach children to work through disagreements from pre-school age on up.

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership.

Russia pushes for new strategic arms pact with U.S.
By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Russia called on Saturday for a successor agreement with the United States to replace the START-1 strategic nuclear arms reduction pact, saying this was a priority in ‘resetting’ their relations as Washington has urged.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, addressing a disarmament conference after holding bilateral talks in Geneva on Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said:

“We are prepared, as was suggested by our American partners, to “reset” our relations … Conclusion of a new legally- binding Russian-American treaty on strategic offensive weapons could become a priority step in that direction.”

Speaking at a news conference later, Lavrov also called on Washington to take Moscow’s concerns into account when it reviews plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe to counter nuclear threats.

Lavrov said that such a system would be seen by Moscow as a threat to Russia.
“If a third positioning area in eastern Europe is actually created this would involve risks for the strategic interests of the Russian Federation. We would have to take account of measures to alleviate this risk,” Lavrov said. “At the same time, we would prefer not to move in this direction,” he added.

Clinton, speaking on Friday, also set a priority in reaching a new agreement with Russia to replace the START-1 (Strategic Arms Reduction) Treaty on reducing long-range nuclear weapons which was negotiated during the superpower rivalry of the Cold War and which expires in December 2009.

Russia sees the treaty as the cornerstone of post-Cold War arms control and believes that letting it lapse without finding an adequate replacement could upset the strategic balance.

Lavrov, speaking at the disarmament conference, quoted President Dmitry Medvedev as saying a new agreement should limit not only nuclear warheads “but also strategic delivery vehicles, i.e. intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.”

The Bush administration, which tried unsuccessfully to reach a compromise deal with the Russians on a START-1 successor, said curbs should be on nuclear warheads only.

NUCLEAR-FREE MIDDLE EAST

Lavrov repeated a Russian call for the Middle East to be made a nuclear weapons-free zone.

“The task to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the Middle East remains urgent. We consistently advocate this region to become a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and eventually, a zone free from all other types of weapons of mass destruction,” he told the arms conference. Israel is believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, though it has never acknowledged such a program or ever testing atomic weapons.

The United States and some of its Western allies believe Iran is covertly developing a nuclear weapon under the guise of a peaceful power-generation program.

Lavrov, whose country has helped build a nuclear power plant in Iran, balanced his comments on the Middle East by saying that the non-proliferation treaty guaranteed members the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Lavrov also called for the “weaponization of outer space” to be prevented and urged U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to ratify a global treaty banning underground nuclear tests.

Clinton said on Friday that she wanted Obama and Medvedev to have a plan on a new strategic arms treaty before they meet at the G20 summit in London on April 2.

Lavrov said the talks with Clinton had done more than create a positive mood, as the two had agreed in detail on which issues to work on, setting the arms treaty as the first priority, partly because it expires this year.

Lavrov also welcomed the Obama administration’s willingness to tackle world problems jointly. “There is a growing understanding of the need for real collective steps on reducing tensions and creating new limitations in existing regimes in relation to nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

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