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Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles mounted on a truck at the Moscow Red Square in 2008
Stocks of ICBMs, like this Russian one on parade, may be reducedImage: AP

Cutting Nukes

wl/jam, dpa/AP/AFP/Reuters
April 24, 2009

Russian and US diplomats have held first preparatory talks to replace a landmark Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty. The original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, is set to expire in December.


At a joint news conference at the US embassy in Rome, negotiators described the one-day preliminary talks as a "productive beginning." US Assistant Secretary of State for verification and compliance Rose Gottemoeller said that Friday's meeting "got off to a fast start."

The talks focused largely on procedural issues and paved the way for the start of formal negotiations next month. Talks will be held in Washington and Moscow in May and June ahead of US President Barack Obama's first visit to Russia in July.

Anatoly Antonov, the chief of security and disarmament issues at the Russian Foreign Ministry, said the two sides hoped they would meet the December deadline for a new treaty.

"We are sure that this new treaty will help to improve relations between the US and the Russian Federation," added Antonov.

A new START under Obama?

The first START arms control treaty, signed in 1991, committed both Russia and the US to cutting their nuclear arsenals, including reducing missile numbers to a maximum of 1,600 and warheads to no more than 6,000. This led to steep reduction in nuclear weapons stocks on both sides.

The two countries agreed on a successor treaty, START II, in 1993, but Russia’s parliament never ratified it. And when US president Barack Obama's predecessor George W. Bush pulled the US out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, Russia said it would give up plans of ever bringing START II into force.

The initiative to resume talks toward a new START treaty was launched at the recent G-20 summit in London by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Barack Obama, after which Obama vowed to press for a world free of nuclear weapons.

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