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ACTION ALERT: US, Russia Reach Deal to Reduce Nucelar Weapons

March 26, 2010
Friends Committee on National Legislation & The Washington Post & The Guardian

The US and Russia have reached a deal on their most extensive nuclear arms-control agreement in nearly two decades. The pact, which would cover an estimated 25,000 of the world's 26,000 nuclear weapons, appeared to represent President Obama’s first victory in his ambitious agenda to move toward a nuclear-free world. ACTION: Ask your senators to vote to ratify the START follow-on agreement when the president submits it.


Ask Senators to Support a New START Treaty

Friends Committee on National Legislation

The United States and Russia control an estimated 25,000 of the 26,000 nuclear weapons that exist in the world today. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that the United States and Russia have agreed to could reduce the number of weapons in both countries' arsenals. Ask your senators to vote to ratify the START follow-on agreement when the president submits it.

Please include personal details in your message such as where you live and why this is an issue you care about. Personalization leads message to have greater weight in congressional offices.

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United States and Russia Reach Nuclear-arms Deal
Mary Beth Sheridan and Philip P. Pan / The Washington Post

MOSCOW (March 25, 2010) -- The United States and Russia have reached a deal on their most extensive nuclear arms-control agreement in nearly two decades, the Kremlin announced Wednesday. The pact appeared to represent President Obama’s first victory in his ambitious agenda to move toward a nuclear-free world.

The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) would replace a 1991 pact that expired in December. Experts called the new agreement the most significant arms-control accord since the 1993 signing of START II, which the Russians never ratified.

Officials in both countries would not discuss details of the new accord, but the general outlines have emerged during the year-long negotiations. Each side will reduce its most dangerous nuclear weapons — those deployed for long-range missions– from a ceiling of 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675. And the two militaries will make relatively small cuts in the number of jets and land- or submarine-based missiles that carry nuclear warheads and bombs.

A Kremlin spokesman told reporters that the two countries’ presidents would talk soon to decide when to sign the pact. “All documents related to the new treaty have been agreed upon,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivity.

The declaration appeared to surprise the White House, with spokesman Robert Gibbs saying that the two sides were “close” to a treaty but that it would not be announced until Obama could speak with President Dmitry Medvedev, probably in the next few days.

Still, US officials confirmed that all major obstacles to the pact have been cleared. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Moscow last week that only technical details remained. Czech authorities said Wednesday that the US government had asked them to hold a signing ceremony. Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), a key supporter of arms control, told Reuters that the administration hoped to have the ceremony on April 8 in Prague, where Obama first laid out the arms-control agenda that helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize. The president briefed Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lugar, the panel’s ranking Republican, on the pact Wednesday._ad_icon

While Americans may think of countries such as Iran or North Korea as more dire threats, Russia is still the only nation with the nuclear heft to obliterate the United States. The former Cold War enemies own nearly 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, even after extensive reductions in recent years.

“I think there was a real question about whether or not we could do arms control anymore — whether we had the institutional capacity, and whether the interests of the countries aligned in such a way they could do it,” said Jeffrey G. Lewis, a nuclear-weapons specialist at the New America Foundation.

Perhaps more important for Obama, the accord comes shortly before a crucial meeting of signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact that contained the spread of nuclear weapons for decades. The administration is hoping to persuade treaty members to impose stiffer punishments on nations that are accused of violating the pact.

Steven Pifer, a nuclear-weapons expert at the Brookings Institution, said the administration will make the case that, with the new START treaty, “the United States and Russia are doing their part to reduce nuclear weapons. That will give the administration a strengthened hand” in the conference.

Despite some arms-control activists’ jubilation, though, the New START, as it is known, probably will face a fight in the Senate, where it will need 67 votes to be ratified. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republican senators have warned that they will not approve a treaty that would curb a planned US missile defense system for Europe.

The Russian government strongly opposes the missile shield, fearing it will upset its strategic balance with Washington. The US government says the system is aimed at threats from Iran, not Russia.

In recent weeks, Russian negotiators pressed for tougher language in the treaty on the US missile shield. The American side “pushed back very hard on this, in part because the administration has read the tea leaves in the Senate,” Pifer said.

Another GOP concern focuses on measures to allow each side to verify the other’s deployed weapons. The Russians had balked at continuing some provisions from the first START pact, saying they were too intrusive.

It could be months before the treaty goes to the Senate, because US and Russian negotiators still must draw up technical annexes.

“The White House will be lucky if it can get something signed in time for the Senate to ratify it before the 2010 elections, and the treaty could easily get hung up in partisan debate,” Henry Sokolski, a nuclear-weapons expert and executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, wrote recently in the National Review Online.

He noted that it took 430 days to ratify the 1991 START agreement. The 2002 Moscow Treaty, a three-page document that committed each side to cut deployed weapons but included no verification measures, took more than nine months.

Obama was deeply involved in the START talks, meeting several times with Medvedev and hashing out differences by telephone, senior officials said.

About three weeks ago, the officials said, the Russians expressed frustration and suggested breaking off the talks for a month. But the United States pressed to continue the negotiations. The administration sent Ellen O. Tauscher, the undersecretary of state for arms control, to Geneva to help seal the deal, they said.

Pan reported from Moscow.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US-Russia Nuclear Deal:
Two Tribes Don't Go to War

Editorial / The Guardian

LONDON (26 March 2010) -- One might have thought that an agreement with Russia on cutting the stockpile of nuclear weapons would have been widely welcomed in Washington. This is, after all, arms control rather than disarmament, and cutting the number of warheads each side is allowed to have from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675 can hardly be considered appeasement.

But no, before the details of the deal have even been released, all 41 Republicans senators have put on record their determination to block ratification (which, being a treaty, requires 67 votes and thus seven Republican ones) unless the US "modernises" its ICBM force and delinks offensive weapons with missile defence. As the agreement with Russia has only been reached by recognising the relationship that exists between offensive weapons and missile defence, this condition alone is tantamount to tearing any new treaty up.

There are more than 20,000 nuclear weapons around today, enough to convince former Republican secretaries of state like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz , that nuclear weapons are a liability to US security rather than an asset. This modest agreement with Russia is a first step in a year which will contain exponentially larger challenges: how to convince the 184 states that have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), but who don't have nuclear weapons, that the five signatories who have weapons are doing enough to bring along non-signatory nuclear-armed states such as India, Pakistan and Israel?

President Barack Obama had originally hoped to have the successor to Start in his pocket and ratified before going to the review conference of the NPT, which this year will be dominated by fears of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. While the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Middle East has broad support, Israel has flatly rejected Egypt's demand to join the NPT as a non-weapons state.

Egypt is determined to press its demand for an international conference in 2011 with both Iran and Israel at the table, and has threatened to withdraw its support for other areas of the treaty, should the United States go cool on the idea. And all this before Mr Obama attempts to pursue US ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty, the cornerstone of nuclear arms control.

This is, to say the least, a crowded and complex agenda and one measure of how little progress was made in arms control and non-proliferation under the last two US presidential terms. Republican senators can ill afford to see the replacement to Start with their customary post-cold war myopia. Russia has had its own problems in negotiating this treaty.

Not least of these are the repeated warnings from the Russian defence establishment that their conventional forces are now so weak, in relation to Nato's, and so lacking in global reach, that their nuclear arsenal is their only real defence. While there are many US exponents of a world free of nuclear weapons, there are for this reason, few Russian ones.

It was thus all the more important for Mr Obama to reset relations with Moscow, and it is now right that his policy of engagement has produced his first major foreign policy dividend. Remember the fears that eastern European states expressed about the prospect of being left out in the cold by America's new strategic alliance with Moscow? Today Radek Sikorski, foreign minister of Poland, takes a somewhat softer line welcoming the prospect of a new agreement with Russia and looking forward to steep reductions in tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

A major arms control agreement with Russia is not being made at eastern Europe's expense. Quite the contrary, it enhances European security. The important thing now is for negotiations to start on a treaty that would make deep cuts in nuclear arsenals. This agreement has cemented the US dialogue with Russia, but it should not stop here.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.




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