Obama and Medvedev Pledge to Achieve Nuclear Weapons Reductions

 In Nuclear Weapons


Today, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev pledged that their countries will work toward a nuclear weapons free world and are committed to negotiating a replacement agreement for the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START) to ensure verifiable reductions to both countries’ nuclear stockpiles. Their statement acknowledges a return to arms control and the important role that the US and Russia can play in providing leadership on nuclear weapons issues.

Here are some highlights from the joint statement today:

We also discussed nuclear arms control and reduction. As leaders of the two largest nuclear weapons states, we agreed to work together to fulfill our obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and demonstrate leadership in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world, while recognizing that this long-term goal will require a new emphasis on arms control and conflict resolution measures, and their full implementation by all concerned nations. We agreed to pursue new and verifiable reductions in our strategic offensive arsenals in a step-by-step process, beginning by replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new, legally-binding treaty. We are instructing our negotiators to start talks immediately on this new treaty and to report on results achieved in working out the new agreement by July.

We intend to carry out joint efforts to strengthen the international regime for nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. In this regard we strongly support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and are committed to its further strengthening. Together, we seek to secure nuclear weapons and materials…. We will deepen cooperation to combat nuclear terrorism. We will seek to further promote the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which now unites 75 countries. We also support international negotiations for a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. As a key measure of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, we underscored the importance of the entering into force the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In this respect, President Obama confirmed his commitment to work for American ratification of this Treaty.

We, the leaders of Russia and the United States, are ready to move beyond Cold War mentalities and chart a fresh start in relations between our two countries. In just a few months we have worked hard to establish a new tone in our relations. Now it is time to get down to business and translate our warm words into actual achievements of benefit to Russia, the United States, and all those around the world interested in peace and prosperity.

There’s more background from the White House’s Office of Press Secretary:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My colleague enumerated what we think is a very significant breakthrough — namely, instructions to negotiators to begin the firming up of a verifiable, legally binding follow-on to the START agreement, which obviously will allow us to maintain very important verification measures after the end of this year, provided that we meet the goal laid out by the Presidents.

But the issues, as my colleague suggested by talking about the second statement that was released today, did not stop there. I would just say that the President was very forward-leaning as it relates to his fundamental interests and his fundamental belief that the biggest threat the country faces, our country faces, is a nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist. So he leaned very far forward on nonproliferation goals.

He also made very clear that we continue to remain committed to the goal of locking down all loose fissile material within the next four years. That’s something that we’ll want to work very closely with our Russian colleagues on.

This agreement comes while the clock ticks down to the expiration of START in December of this year, providing new momentum and guidelines for a follow-on agreement to START. The historic 1991 START agreement allowed both Russian and the US to reduce their stockpiles and its expiration would eliminate the system for inspections and verification efforts.

With more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, there is a greater risk of accidental launches or theft. The US and Russia account for about 95 percent of those weapons. The agreement on numerous steps forward by the two countries shows a reaffirmation of the importance of arms control measures to help make the world safer from nuclear weapons. With the Obama administration headed in the right direction, we’ll continue working to ensure Congress is on board with new policies and push the administration to take bold action toward a nuclear weapons free world.

Photo courtesy of AP

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