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Obama and Medvedev step closer to nuclear weapons-free world

A phone call today between Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev sealed the deal for the US and Russia to reduce strategic nuclear weapons by almost one-third and to halve the number of delivery vehicles, such as missiles and bombers.

By Correspondent / March 26, 2010

President Barack Obama comments on the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty at the White House with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (l.), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (r.) in Washington, Friday.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters



It's official. The first big post cold war strategic arms control treaty will be signed on April 8, in Prague, Czech Republic, where a year ago President Barack Obama opened his campaign for a nuclear weapons-free world, amid surging hopes that the US-Russian example will lead to fresh progress in limiting the spread of atomic weapons and encouraging other nuclear-armed states to reduce their arsenals.

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"Since taking office, one of my highest national security priorities has been addressing the threat posed to the American people by nuclear weapons," Mr. Obama told a White House briefing today after sealing the deal in a telephone conversation this morning with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

"That is why – last April in Prague – I stated America’s intention to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that has been embraced by Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan," he said. "With this agreement, the United States and Russia – the two largest nuclear powers in the world – also send a clear signal that we intend to lead. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities."

IN PICTURES: Nuclear power around the world

Experts say the new agreement, designed to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, will reduce strategic nuclear warheads by almost a third, to about 1,550 on each side, and halve the number of delivery vehicles – missiles, bombers and submarines – to 700 for each country.

The US and Russia still deploy more than 90 per cent of the world's nuclear weapons; the US currently around around 2,150 strategic warheads while Russia reportedly maintains about 2,600. Both sides have thousands more in storage, or awaiting dismantlement under previous arms control deals.

The treaty will still need to be ratified by a two-thirds vote the US Senate, as well as by Russia's upper and lower houses of parliament. Concerns have been raised on both sides about the treaty, which will slash strategic arsenals to their lowest levels since the superpower arms race began in earnest in the 1960s.