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February 5, 2011

Russia and the US have launched a new arms treaty to reduce their nuclear arsenals. The new START treaty is seen as a major breakthrough in relations between the one-time Cold War enemies.

Nuclear explosion
The arsenal buildup dates back to the Cold WarImage: picture-alliance / dpa

The US and Russia have formally inaugurated their new START arms reduction treaty, with both sides pledging to monitor each other's nuclear arsenal and cut their numbers of nuclear weapons.

The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty - or START - came into effect when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov exchanged the final ratification documents at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Clinton described the treaty as a "milestone in our strategic partnership" which would "lessen the nuclear danger facing the Russian and American people and the world."

Lavrov said the agreement was an expression of both countries' "responsibility for the safety of the world."

The treaty will see the two sides reducing their arsenal of warheads by roughly one third of current levels over the next 10 years. The old START treaty dating back to 1991 expired in December 2009.

Improving ties

Obama and Medvedev
Obama and Medvedev agreed to slash their nuclear arsenal by 30 percentImage: AP

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Obama signed the new deal last year after long negotiations between the world's two top nuclear powers. The US and Russia together have more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.

The two sides will first begin exchanging information about the status of the nuclear forces before holding on-site inspections of each other's nuclear arsenals.

The treaty is part of efforts to improve ties between Moscow and Washington, which hit a low after the brief 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. US concerns over Moscow's human rights accord have also repeatedly lead to strains between the two sides.

Speaking at the Munich conference Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the new treaty as "a milestone on the road to our ultimate goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons."

Author: Andreas Illmer (dpa, Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler