Posted by: Martin Fox | July 6, 2009

Obama and Russian Leader Announce Nuclear Deal

Hmm, building global cohesion and reducing nuclear arsenals in the same trip – not a bad start…

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

russia.190.1Obama and Russian Leader Announce Nuclear Deal

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY and PETER BAKER
MOSCOW — The United States and Russia, seeking to move forward on one of the most significant arms control treaties since the end of the cold war, announced Monday that they had reached a preliminary agreement on cutting each country’s stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons by as much as one-third.

The so-called framework agreement, which is intended to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or Start, was put together by negotiators as President Obama arrived here for his first Russian-American summit meeting. It was approved by Mr. Obama and Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev.

Since taking office in January, Mr. Obama has vowed to improve relations with Russia, which had steadily worsened in the final years of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Less than a year ago, Russia’s war with Georgia had caused the deepest strains between Moscow and the West since the fall of the Soviet Union.

At a new conference on Monday, Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev hailed the arms control framework and a range of other agreements on issues like Afghanistan, Iran and other matters. Both men spoke warmly of their negotiations, indicating that they hoped their meeting was an important step in renewed cooperation.

Mr. Medvedev appeared to indicate more willingness to lend Russia’s help to the United States in trying to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea, a priority of the Obama administration.

“It’s our common, joint responsibility, and we should do our utmost to prevent any negative trends there, and we are ready to do that,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Our negotiations with President Obama have demonstrated that we share the same attitude towards this problem.

Mr. Obama declared that the United States and Russia had to set an example by reducing their own arsenals.

“This is an urgent issue, and one in which the United States and Russia have to take leadership,” Mr. Obama said. “It is very difficult for us to exert that leadership unless we are showing ourselves willing to deal with our own nuclear stockpiles in a more rational way.”

In the negotiations, both sides seemed to try to skirt a dispute that could have derailed the summit — the fate of an American missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, which was proposed by the Bush administration.

American officials have said the system is intended to ward off attacks from countries like Iran, but the Kremlin views it as a threat to Russia.

Before the summit meeting, Mr. Medvedev asserted that the United States would have to compromise on the system before Russia would sign off on an arms control agreement.

While Mr. Obama is not as enthusiastic about the system as Mr. Bush was, he has not abandoned it and is awaiting a review by his advisers. In the meantime, he had resisted linking the missile defense system to the arms reduction negotiations.

On Monday, the two sides issued a joint statement indicating that they would continue to discuss the antimissile system. They also agreed to undertake a joint assessment of any threats presented by Iran.

But Mr. Medvedev said at the news conference that he believed that Russia had made progress on the issue, saying the United States had acknowledged that negotiations on arms control would be connected to the missile defense program. But Mr. Obama did not acknowledge any change in the American position.

On arms control, the framework document sets the parameters for talks through the end of the year, according to officials. The Start treaty expires on Dec. 5.

The two sides intend to build momentum for a broader agreement to be negotiated starting next year to impose even deeper cuts in their nuclear arsenals and put the world on a path toward eliminating nuclear weapons altogether.

On the immediate treaty, negotiators are to be instructed to craft an agreement that would cut strategic warheads for each side to between 1,500 and 1,675, down from the limit of 2,200 slated to take effect in 2012 under the Treaty of Moscow, which was signed in 2002 by the presidents at the time, Mr. Bush and Vladimir V. Putin.

The limit on delivery vehicles would be cut to between 500 and 1,100 from the 1,600 currently allowed under Start.

The countries would be required to meet the limits in the treaty within seven years, officials said.

Perhaps more important than the specific limits would be a revised and extended verification system that otherwise would expire with Start in December.

While only a first step, the agreement was reached only after arduous negotiations that at several points over the past few weeks appeared to be faltering.

In the end, though, both sides wanted to produce something so they could call the summit meeting a success and further the effort to improve relations.

Mr. Obama also announced an agreement to resume military to military contacts, which broke off after the Georgia war last August.

And the two countries sealed a deal allowing the American military to fly up to 10 planes a day, or thousands a year, through Russian airspace to transport troops and weapons to the war in Afghanistan.

The nuclear arms limits embraced by Monday’s agreement would codify and continue the natural reductions of each side’s arsenal that have been occurring since the end of the cold war.

The United States currently has 1,198 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based missiles and bombers, which together are capable of delivering 5,576 warheads, according to its most recent Start report in January.

Because not all of them are “operationally deployed,” the Arms Control Association estimates that the United States currently deploys at least 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads.

Russia reported in January that it has 816 delivery vehicles capable of delivering 3,909 warheads. While the number of deployed Russian strategic warheads is not known, the Arms Control Association estimated it between 2,000 and 3,000.

Both sides also have more warheads that are in storage or awaiting dismantlement and the treaty discussions do not cover thousands more tactical nuclear weapons.

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