Obama and Medvedev urge Republicans to support START
Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev have urged Republicans to support a new sweeping arms control treaty between the two countries after the pair held an impromptu meeting on the sidelines of the Nato summit.
The US administration has warned that failing to ratify the treaty would endanger the substantial gains made in relations with Russia.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said the issue was one of "life and death" with thousands of Russian nuclear missiles still pointing at American soil.
"This is in the national security interests of the United States, there is no doubt about it," she said on US television.
Mr Medvedev, the Russian president, said it could be "very unpleasant" if there was no START deal and hoped "commonsense will prevail".
"Many people's efforts aimed at resetting the relationship not only between Russia and the United States but also between Russia and Nato would be wasted," he said.
Mr Obama, the US president, has made ratification of START his highest foreign policy priority in the current "lame duck" session of Congress. Both he and Mr Medevedev held an "informal" 20 minute meeting during the Nato summit on Saturday.
He requires 14 Republican votes for ratification but was dealt a major blow last week when Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the party's appointed spokesman on the issue, said more time was needed to examine the treaty's implications.
In January, a new Congress partly controlled by Republicans will be sworn in, making the task much harder.
Nato and Russia agreed over the weekend to jointly examine a missile shield to defend Europe and to boost the flow of supplies to the Afghan war through former Soviet territories.
Sounding frustrated on the last day of the summit in Lisbon, Mr Obama said military officials, senior members of past Republican administrations and European states backed the treaty with Russia.
He said his administration had sought to address Republican concerns about the US nuclear arsenal by agreeing to add $4bn (€2.9bn) to the $80bn (€58.6bn) already earmarked to modernise it.
"There is no other reason not to do it other than the fact that Washington has become a very partisan place," Mr Obama said.
Adm Mike Mullen, the top US military official, said he was "extremely concerned" that the failure to ratify the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in the US Senate had left the Pentagon unable to inspect Russian nuclear sites for almost a year.
The treaty, signed by Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev in April, caps both sides nuclear warheads at 1,550, and the number of deployed delivery vehicles to 800. It also allows both sides to inspect each other's nuclear-weapons facilities.
Mr Obama and his advisers have laboured the point that they are continuing the work of Ronald Reagan, a Republican president who is a hero to those now blocking ratification.
"This is in the tradition of not just bipartisan but non-partisan action on behalf of arms control treaties, going back to President Reagan, who famously said, 'Trust, but verify.' Well, right now, we have no verification," said Mrs Clinton.