The US and Russia begin disarmament talks | World | DW | 18.05.2009
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World

The US and Russia begin disarmament talks

Negotiations on a new US-Russian strategic arms accord are underway in Moscow. Both sides have expressed a willingness to come to an agreement on complex arms control issues.

the US and Soviet two leaders sit in front of their national flags

1991: the US and Russia sign the original START treaty

The US and Russia have begun renegotiating the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on Monday in Moscow. START, one of the largest and most complex arms control treaties, was signed in 1991, and expires in December of 2009.

Both Washington and Moscow have indicated that the political will exists to overcome disagreements on the size, nature and purpose of their nuclear arsenals and strategic weapons.

"There are good chances for bringing our positions closer and for working out agreements," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week after a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

Seeking a replacement for START

The US delegation is headed by Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller. Anatoly Antonov, head of the foreign ministry department for security and disarmament, leads the Russian delegation.

The fresh START negotiations come as US President Barack Obama pushes ahead with his agenda to "reset" frayed ties with Russia.

Us president Obama

US President Obama has called for a world without nuclear weapons

In July, Obama is scheduled to travel to Moscow for a summit with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in which they will discuss, among other security challenges, the reduction of nuclear weapons arsenals. The White House said in a statement that the meeting will allow the US and Russia an opportunity "to deepen engagement on reducing nuclear weapons, cooperating on non-proliferation, exploring ways to cooperate on missile defense, addressing mutual threats and security challenges."

Disarmament process began at the height of the Cold War

Both sides have come to the conclusion that military deterrence is as effective with less warheads on either side, and have agreed to make cuts in the number of warheads they have deployed to around 1,000 to 1,500 each. Other issues include whether the treaty should cover delivery systems like bombers and missiles, verification procedures and information sharing.

The US and Russia both have an interest in ensuring the talks conclude with results.

"In support of its arms control interests and interest in strategic stability more generally, the United States should pursue a much broader and more ambitious set of strategic dialogues," said former US defense secretary William Perry, who is now part of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.

Fjodor Lukjanov, editor in chief of the Moscow magazine Russia in World Politics, says a new START treaty is eminently important for Russia.

"Otherwise, there's the risk that the US might just let the treaty expire and then do what they like," Lukjanov says. "Russia has no other means to have control over the US' strategic potential."

db/AFP
Editor: Trinity Hartman

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