President Barack Obama finalized a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia on Friday that will commit the countries to reduce their Cold War nuclear arsenals.
Bringing an end to a year of negotiations, Obama and Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev agreed in a telephone conversation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty allows about 30 percent fewer nuclear warheads than are currently permitted.
“With this agreement, the United States and Russia – the two largest nuclear powers in the world – also send a clear signal that we intend to lead,” Obama said at the White House. “By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.”
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Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Obama said he was pleased to announce that “the United States and Russia have agreed to the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”
The new treaty, which lasts ten years, will reduce the limit on deployed strategic nuclear warheads by more than 25 percent, and on launchers by half. It will also reestablish an inspection and verification regime that expired in December. Each nation will have to make its stockpile cuts within seven years after the treaty is ratified.
“This agreement demonstrates the administration’s commitment to moving away from Cold War era stockpiles and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the two countries that currently possess more than 95 percent of those remaining in the world,” said Leonor Tomero, the Arms Control Center’s director of nuclear nonproliferation. “It is a key element of the president’s efforts to effectively address the most pressing threat to the United States: the danger that nuclear weapons might spread to other countries or to terrorists or that a nuclear weapon might be detonated by accident.”
Though the pact recognizes Moscow’s strong opposition to US plans to set up missile defenses in Europe, it does not restrict the United States from building such bases. Instead, the two nations have each drafted nonbinding statements outlining their positions on missile defense.
In its statement, Russia said that it reserved the right to use the withdrawal clause, available to both parties, if it decided the American missile defense plans threatened its security.
The statement released by the United States asserted that “the Treaty does not contain any constraints on testing, development or deployment of current or planned US missile defense programs or current or planned United States long-range conventional strike capabilities,” but went on to say that the program was not directed at Russia or at undermining the security balance between the two nations.
“In many ways, nuclear weapons represent both the darkest days of the Cold War and the most troubling threats of our time,” Obama said, alluding to the two countries’ troubled history. “Since I took office, I have been committed to a ‘reset’ of our relations with Russia.”
The US has 2,100 deployed strategic warheads, while Russia has 2,600, according to the Federation of American Scientists
The reduction limit for this treaty is 74 percent lower than that of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed in 1991 and 30 percent lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the Moscow Treaty signed in 2002. The current treaty replaces them both.
This agreement comes shortly after the completion of health care legislation, and prior to next month’s Washington Summit on nuclear security and talks in May centered around limiting the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.
Obama plans to start another round of negotiations in the future to continue cutting nuclear arsenals further, in order to “pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
The treaty must still be ratified by the US Senate and the Russian Duma. The leaders will sign the pact in Prague on April 8.