US and Russia sign nuclear arms treaty
US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have put their signatures to an arms-reduction treaty that opens a new chapter in relations between the two former Cold War enemies.
Obama and Medvedev sealed the agreement in a ceremony in Prague. US officials have said the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) demonstrates the American commitment to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and will encourage other countries to work toward that goal.
“Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation, and for US-Russia relations,” Obama said in remarks after the signing. The treaty, he said, “will set the stage” for further cuts in nuclear weapons.
The US president is seeking to use the accord in his effort to build international support for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear development program and to get a global consensus on steps to prevent terrorists from getting atomic material.
The arms treaty was signed just days after Obama released a document outlining US policies on nuclear weapons that marked a shift in doctrine to focus more on the threat from extremist groups and nations such as Iran and South Korea rather than confrontation with nuclear powers such as Russia.
The two sides remain at odds over the missile defence system the US plans to deploy to guard against an attack by rogue nations, such as Iran.
Russia issued a separate statement reiterating its position that it reserved the right to withdraw from the START if there was a “qualitative or quantitative” buildup. The White House rejected that position and played down the differences, arguing that such statements have been part of arm- reduction treaties dating to the Nixon administration. Brian McKeon, deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, wrote on the White House website that “each side is making its intentions clear - to the other party and to the world.”
The US remains “committed to continuing to develop and deploy” the missile defence system, McKeon, who will be leading the effort to win US Senate ratification of the treaty, wrote.
Obama said he and Medvedev will continue discussions on the defence system.