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.
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Political victory for Obama, Medvedev
Obama noted that the new treaty will continue the warming trend in relations with Russia that his administration began, a sentiment widely echoed in Russia. Russian arms control experts say it's been a long time coming, after nearly a decade in which serious dialogue about strategic stability lapsed, while tensions and mistrust between Washington and Moscow spiked to post-cold war highs.Skip to next paragraph
"It's true that this is a modest treaty, and that it mainly covers reductions the two sides would probably make anyway, but its real impact is that it gets the arms control process back on track," says Yevegeny Myasnikov, an expert with the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies a semi-official Moscow think tank.
"Now we have a new beginning, and it's something to build on. That is extremely significant," he says.
The treaty is a crucial victory for the Nobel Prize-winning Obama, who can use some dramatic results to brandish as he heads into a 40-nation nuclear security summit due to open in Washington on April 12. It may also be seen in Russia as a political win for Mr. Medvedev, who needs some solid achievements to step out of the shadow the powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin, in the runup to 2012 presidential elections.
Russia remains skeptical of US intentions
But Russia's foreign policy community appears far more divided over the usefulness of the new START accord for Russia's long-term security, and some wonder what compromises the Kremlin might have made on Russia's insistence that a strong mechanism be embedded in the text to link the need for controls on defensive anti-missile weapons with the treaty's cuts to offensive arsenals.
"We're living in a world in which the US has undisputed military supremacy, and Russia has only its nuclear weapons to defend itself," says Mikhail Delyagin, director of the independent Institute of Globalization Problems in Moscow.
"So, nuclear arms talks with the US is all we've got, the only thing we can talk to the Americans about while maintaining our self-esteem," he says.
Moscow is deeply suspicious and fearful of a potential US technological breakthrough on defensive antimissile systems, which could undermine or even negate Russia's aging Soviet-era strategic nuclear deterrent.