As expected, the leaders of the two nuclear superpowers agreed today to mutually extend efforts to reduce their nation's atomic weapons stockpiles.
Visiting Moscow for the first time as commander-in-chief, U.S. President Barack Obama spared little time in tackling the top foreign affairs issue traditionally assigned to American leaders in the modern era. At their first meeting in London in April, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to renew discussions on efforts to develop a new bilateral pact on nuclear weapons to replace the decades-old Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires this December (see U.S. and Russian Leaders Vow to Renew Nuke Reduction Efforts in this space).
At the time, the two presidents said they would assign their arms experts to begin negotiations on a framework aimed at overhauling START's protocols by July. Today's agreement formalizes that initiative by pledging the parties to "begin work on a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement" that would reduce each side's strategic warheads to a "range of 1500-1675" devices apiece.
In a joint statement, the two leaders said their government's "plan to continue the discussion concerning the establishment of cooperation in responding to the challenge of ballistic missile proliferation."
"We have instructed our experts to work together to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and to prepare appropriate recommendations, giving priority to the use of political and diplomatic methods. At the same time, they plan to conduct a joint review of the entire spectrum of means at our disposal that allow us to cooperate on monitoring the development of missile programs around the world. Our experts are intensifying dialogue on establishing the Joint Data Exchange Center, which is to become the basis for a multilateral missile-launch notification regime."
The statement also included a call for the other nuclear-armed nations to join the original members of the atomic weapons club "to engage in equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation" on reducing arsenals the world over and "to refrain from steps that could lead to missile proliferation and undermine regional and global stability."
Further details of today's accord were outlined in separate documents published by both sides and in a public press conference. Please see:
- Press Conference by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia
- The Joint Understanding for the START Follow-on Treaty
- U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission
"President Medvedev and I are committed to leaving behind the suspicion and the rivalry of the past so that we can advance the interests that we hold in common," Obama told media gathered at the Kremlin. "Today, we've made meaningful progress in demonstrating through deeds and words what a more constructive U.S.-Russian relationship can look like in the 21st century."