U.S. and Russia Agree to Slash Nuclear Arsenals

WASHINGTON, DC, March 26, 2010 (ENS) – The ultimate environmental threat – that of nuclear war – was reduced today. The presidents of the United States and Russia have agreed on the terms of a new nuclear disarmament treaty that cuts each side’s arsenal of warheads by 30 percent to the lowest levels in more than 50 years.

President Barack Obama and President Dimitry Medvedev finalized the pact today by phone and will meet in Prague, Czech Republic on April 8 to sign a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that limits to 1,550 the number of warheads each side may have.

Prague was selected for the signing ceremony because it was there last April that President Obama first stated his vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

Today, the Kremlin said in a statement, “As they move toward greater disarmament, “both nations see their ultimate goal as creating a world without nuclear weapons.”

President Obama said today at the White House, “After a year of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia have agreed to the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”

President Barack Obama, left, and President Dimitry Medvedev during the U.S. leader’s official visit to the Kremlin. July 2009. (Photo courtesy The Kremlin)

“Since taking office, one of my highest priorities has been addressing the threat posed by nuclear weapons to the American people,” he said. “And that’s why, last April in Prague, I stated America’s intention to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that’s been embraced by Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.”

“While this aspiration will not be reached in the near future, I put forward a comprehensive agenda to pursue it – to stop the spread of these weapons; to secure vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists; and to reduce nuclear arsenals,” President Obama said. “A fundamental part of that effort was the negotiation of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.”

The new 10-year agreement will replace the START Treaty of 1991 which expired on December 4, 2009. The START treaty entered into force on December 5, 1994 for 15 years and became the first Russian-U.S. treaty that not only restricted the arms race, but envisaged the real reduction of the already accrued arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons.

The new START agreement also replaces the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty, known as the Moscow Treaty, of May 24, 2002, in which President George W. Bush negotiated further weapons reductions.

President Medvedev said today at the Kremlin that the draft treaty “reflects the balance of interests on both sides.”

The Russian president noted that, “though the negotiation process was not always easy, the negotiators’ constructive mindset made it possible to achieve a tremendous result in a short time and produce a document ready for signature.”

Once the two presidents have signed the document, the main task will be for their respective countries to ratify the new treaty, they said.

B61 nuclear bombs. Designed in 1961, the B61 is the primary nuclear weapon in the U.S. stockpile. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration)

If ratified by both governments, the new START treaty will allow 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs, deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers – numbers more than two times lower than the levels allowed in the previous START treaty.

The new START treaty will also allow each side 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers.

The new START treaty also provides that each party has the right to independently determine the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms.

The Treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of the 1991 START Treaty with new elements. Measures include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring.

To increase confidence and transparency, the Treaty also provides for the exchange of telemetry.

The two presidents agreed that the new treaty marks a transition in the two nations’ interactions to a higher level in developing new strategic relations and will serve as evidence of the commitment by Russia and the United States, the world’s largest nuclear powers, to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The input of the new treaty to strengthening nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament should also increase trust not merely between its parties, but more broadly among nuclear and non-nuclear NPT member-states, the Kremlin said in a statement.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat said he will carefully review the treaty in preparation for ratification hearings.

“After this treaty is submitted to the Senate, the Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on the national security aspects of the treaty and how it will be implemented,” Levin said. “I congratulate both presidents for carrying through on their commitment to arms control.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat, said, “I view this agreement as a positive development that should benefit U.S., Russian, and global security as whole. The agreement will send a clear message to the world, and should assist President Obama in his efforts to impose stiffer punishments on nations accused of violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty when he meets with that treaty’s signatory nations in May.”

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a U.S. network of three-dozen grassroots and national groups representing communities near U.S. nuclear weapons sites, applauded the new START treaty.

Calling it “a positive step for U.S. nuclear policy” that “reinvigorates the international effort to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons,” the Alliance said it supports “prompt Senate ratification of the New START agreement without conditions that will undermine prospects for further reductions.”

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