Obama administration committed to long-term goal of nuclear disarmament
Washington - A "fresh start" in U.S.-Russian relations will begin with a renewed commitment to shrinking stockpiles of nuclear weapons, after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announce plans to start negotiations on a new arms control treaty.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington — A “fresh start” in U.S.-Russian relations will begin with a renewed commitment to shrinking stockpiles of nuclear weapons, after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announce plans to start negotiations on a new arms control treaty.
“We intend to have an agreement by the end of the year,” Clinton said in Geneva March 6. “This is [of] the highest priority to our governments.”
Leaders in both Washington and Moscow have sought to revive arms control efforts with a follow-on accord to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( START ). U.S. and Russian diplomats will conduct talks to prepare an initial agenda ahead of the first meeting between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the G20 meeting of advanced and developing economies in London in April, Clinton said.
“We want to make progress every day toward our shared commitments,” Clinton said. “We hope to be in a position where we can present those to our two presidents before their meeting, so that they can then agree upon the instructions that should be provided to our negotiators.”
START has led to significant decreases in nuclear weapons by establishing a complex monitoring system limiting both sides to a maximum of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads. It also limits the number of delivery vehicles — such as bombers and land-based and submarine-based missiles — to 1,600 each. The current agreement is set to expire December 5, 2009.
“We will do everything to have this agreement reached,” Lavrov said.
As the world’s leading nuclear powers, the United States and Russia also have a special obligation to deepen cooperation on nuclear security challenges, Clinton said. She reported that both sides also agreed to further talks ahead of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2010, as well as a new initiative to keep nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists or other “irresponsible actors.”
On March 4, U.S. and Russian diplomats met in Vienna, Austria, with fellow members of the “P5+1” group — China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom — to pledge continued unity in efforts to convince Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment and join international talks. In recent days, Russian and U.S. officials have also met in Seoul, South Korea, ahead of efforts to restart the Six-Party Talks working to roll back North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. ( See “Analysis: America and Russia “Press the Reset Button.” )
“We’re going to believe in arms control and nonproliferation as a core function of our foreign policy,” Clinton said in a March 6 interview with National Public Radio. “We’re committed to both, and we are going to be working with the Russians on the START treaty and the nonproliferation treaty and other matters of great concern to us.”
As senators, both Obama and Vice President Biden were active advocates for securing nuclear materials and pursuing dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons. Since taking office, they have committed to a goal of maintaining a strong deterrent, while defining the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons as a long-term diplomatic goal, according to the White House Web site.
Medvedev welcomed the Obama administration’s commitment to arms control as a first step toward “pressing the reset button” in U.S.-Russian relations. “Russia is open to dialogue and is prepared for negotiations with the new American administration. I fully share U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to the noble goal of sparing the world of the nuclear threat,” the Russian president said in a March 7 statement. “Constructive interaction in this area would help make Russian-U.S. relations healthier in general.”
Clinton and Lavrov pledged further talks about cooperating on Middle East peace, stabilizing Afghanistan and confronting Iran’s nuclear aspirations. They expressed hope that early progress on shared challenges could help bridge points of disagreement between Washington and Moscow on such issues as Russia’s continued presence on internationally recognized Georgian territory and the Kremlin’s concerns over proposed European components of a ballistic missile defense system.
“Where we can agree, like our position on the START treaty and nonproliferation, we are prepared to get to work,” Clinton said. “And where we have differences, we are keeping those on the list because we think through closer cooperation and building trust in each other we can even tackle some of those differences.”
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