by Ben Spencer
Barack Obama last July thrashed out a deal which could see Russia and the U.S. scrap about 1,000 nuclear warheads each. Obama, determined to rebuild relations with Russia, signed a preliminary agreement with President Dmitry Medvedev at a Moscow summit.
The deal commits the two countries to cutting their nuclear warhead arsenals to as few as 1,500 each, the lowest levels of any U.S.-Russia arms control deal. The agreement was signed by the two presidents after about three hours of talks at the Kremlin and is designed to guide negotiators working on a replacement for the strategic arms control reduction treaty (START), which expires in December.
Under current treaties, each country is allowed a maximum of 2,200 warheads and 1,600 launch vehicles. But experts believe both sides have more than that and the new targets will effectively mean them giving up about 1,000 warheads. A White House statement said the treaty “will include effective verification measures,” and it “will enhance the security of both the U.S. and Russia, as well as provide predictability and stability in strategic offensive forces.”
The U.S. and Russia Have
More in Common than Differences
The leaders also announced several other deals, including Moscow allowing the U.S. to transport arms across its land and airspace into Afghanistan for the war there. They outlined other ways to cooperate on Afghanistan, including increasing assistance to the Afghan army and police and training counter-narcotics personnel.
Other side agreements included reviving a joint commission to try to account for missing service members of both countries dating back to World War II and new cooperation on public health issues. It is hoped Russia will open sensitive archives to U.S. researchers seeking details about missing American servicemen. Obama, who took wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia to Moscow, needs Russia’s help chiefly in pressuring Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. But he also hopes Medvedev will back his efforts to tackle terrorism, global warming and the world economy.
Obama insisted: “The United States and Russia have more in common than they have differences.” Medvedev stressed they would be “closing some of the pages of the past and opening some of the pages of the future.”
Difficulties Still Remain
However, a stalemate remains over the U.S. pursuit of a missile-defense system in Europe, pushed by Bush and under review by Obama. The U.S. insists it is designed to protect U.S. allies in Europe from a potential nuclear attack by Iran. But the Russians see it as a first step toward a system that could weaken their offensive nuclear strike potential.
The summit was the beginning of a weeklong world trip for Obama. His toughest reception was likely to be in Russia. Just 15 percent of Russians say the U.S. is playing a positive role in the world, according to a recent poll.
Obama, who laid a wreath at Russia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before his talks, later outlined his vision for U.S.-Russian relations at a speech at the New Economic School in Moscow. He caused a stir last week by criticizing the stance of Medvedev’s predecessor and mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as “outdated Cold War approaches.” Φ