US-Russian Arms Control negotiations

March 13th, 2009  

Topic: US-Russian Arms Control negotiations

[Originally by He Jing]

BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The United States and Russia have recently agreed to start negotiations on a new arms control treaty.

The decision marks a fresh start in bilateral relations that have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low due to an array of rows, including disagreements over U.S. missile defense plans in Europe and NATO's eastward expansion. It is believed that the decision to negotiate will help turn a new page in U.S-Russia relations and pave the way for the two sides to seek a common ground on other contentious issues. However, progress on arms control alone will not be enough to break the ice between the two nations.

[Above] Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Hilary Clinton discussing the Arms control treaty


After a meeting with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the two sides have agreed on a work plan aimed at renewing the START disarmament treaty, which is due to expire on Dec. 5.
"We intend to reach agreement by the end of this year. This is of the highest priority to our governments," Clinton told a press conference.
The treaty, which was signed in 1991, committed both parties to cutting their arsenals, including reducing missiles to a maximum of 1,600 and warheads to no more than 6,000. Although ratified, the treaty has never entered into force.
Clinton said the talks with Lavrov over arms control and non-proliferation were "very practical" and "very specific," and that she hoped both sides want to keep progress on the issue "every day."
In terms of strained U.S.-Russia ties, Clinton said it would take time to rebuild the relationship and would require "more trust, predictability and progress".
"This is a fresh start not only to improve our bilateral relationship but to lead the world in important areas," Clinton said.
Lavrov concurred with the secretary of state.
"We agreed that on all questions, including those on which we have differences, we will work in the spirit of partnership, honestly and openly," Lavrov said.
Analysts say that the meeting in Geneva marked a move between the two countries to "reset" their relationship after rising tensions due to Russia's brief war against Georgia. The meeting also was intended to lay the ground work for a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev at the April G20 summit in London.

[Above] The Russian Topol-M [NATO reporting name SS-27 Sickle B] Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM]


Since assuming office in January, Obama has exchanged letters and phone calls with Medvedev, sending a strong signal of his desire to mend relations with Russia.
"My hope is that we can have a constructive relationship where, based on common respect and mutual interest, we can move forward," he said.
Vice President Joe Biden continued the conversation on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov, pledging to reverse a "dangerous drift" in U.S.-Russia relations.
Medvedev said he hopes the positive signals Moscow has been receiving from Washington will translate into agreements.
Ties between the two countries were strained by Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia and its 2009 energy dispute with Ukraine. Russian concerns about NATO expansion and the U.S.' proposed European-based missile defense system also added to the tensions.
In a cautious response to the United States, Medvedev said Tuesday that the signals Moscow has been receiving from the Obama administration are "very positive" and encouraging. The two leaders will meet in London on April 1 to discuss non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and the global financial crisis.

[Above] The USAF's B-1 'Lancer' bomber replaced the B-52 Stratofortress. It is capable of delivering Nuclear payloads.


Clinton has said the United States and Russia should take a lead in global arms control.
Almost 20 years after the Cold War ended, the United States and Russia still possess arsenals of more than 100,000 warheads each that are costly to maintain and make no military sense. Both can afford to scrap at least 90 percent of their stockpiles while maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent, according to military experts.
Analyst say it is uncertain that an initiative to negotiate will launch a new era of U.S.-Russia detente and that arms control alone cannot be the engine of a better relationship because of their deep divergence on a string of topics.
The contentious issue of missile defense remains the biggest challenge for bilateral relations. Experts have warned that improper management of it might trigger another "Cuban missile crisis" in the post-Cold War era. Despite all of the positive signals, however, the chances for a quick thaw of icy Russian-U.S. relations will continue to remain virtually nil, analysts say.



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