Last week President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced a preliminary agreement to reduce the size of each country’s nuclear weapons stockpiles.
From July 6 through July 8, the two leaders met in Moscow for their first full summit. Their announcement that the U.S. and Russia will negotiate a successor agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a crucial accord that reduces the sizes of the two countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles, is an excellent beginning to reviving arms control agreements and nonproliferation efforts.
The START treaty, which expires in December 2009, has already greatly reduced the dangers posed by U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Under the treaty, both countries cut their deployed nuclear weapons from 10,000 at the end of the Cold war to fewer than 6,000 by December 2001. In addition to reducing the number of weapons each side holds, the treaty has important procedures to verify that each country is complying.
The new agreement that will act as a successor to START will seek additional cuts of up to one-third from present levels in nuclear arsenals beyond the 2002 Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions.
Despite the promising rhetoric, the real work has just begun. An initial report on the negotiations is due by the end of the month, but completing negotiations and winning a vote in the Senate is a tall order to complete by the December expiration date. Regardless of when this new treaty is approved, it is a necessary component to restarting nonproliferation efforts around the world.