Progress. Finally. On nuclear weapons reductions.
Today, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev announced an agreement to negotiate a new legally-binding treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in December.
The agreement also gives momentum to the “reset” between the two countries after years of dismal relations.
The two presidents will meet in Moscow in July, and may hope to have an agreement to initial at that time.
There is a problem of timing. The existing START agreement expires on December 5, 2009. Indiana Senator Richard Lugar (R) has already indicated that a treaty must be sent up to the Senate by August to have a ratification vote completed by December.
The two leaders went further, however, than agreeing to negotiate a successor to START. They jointly committed “to achieving a nuclear free world.”
In full from the presidents’ statements:
“We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world, while recognizing that this long-term goal will require a new emphasis on arms control and conflict resolution measures, and their full implementation by all concerned nations. We agreed to pursue new and verifiable reductions in our strategic offensive arsenals in a step-by-step process, beginning by replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new, legally-binding treaty. We are instructing our negotiators to start talks immediately on this new treaty and to report on results achieved in working out the new agreement by July”.
In a separate background briefing by “two senior administration officials,” the Administration suggested that even a treaty that produces modest reductions in the first round (widely suggested at 1,500 deployed strategic nuclear weapons compared to 1,700 – 2,200 in the 2002 Treaty of Moscow), establishes a framework “for doing even bolder things later.”
Council for a Livable World president Gary Hart praised the two leaders:
“It is very welcome that Presidents Obama and Medvedev have pledged to pursue new and verifiable reductions in strategic nuclear weapons by the end of the year. It also is important that they looked beyond this year and committed to the long-term goal of a nuclear weapons free world.”
Senator Hart added: “Equally significant is that the United States and Russia have both committed to improving relations after a difficult period. U.S.-Russian cooperation is imperative to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, confronting the terrorist threat, stabilizing Afghanistan, and achieving security and prosperity in Europe.”
Further progress ahead. President Obama will deliver a major address on nuclear non-proliferation in Prague this Sunday, April 5. We expect and hope for more about the Administration plans on nuclear weapons issues.