United States and Russia Conclude New START Arms Cut Pact

United States and Russia Conclude New START Arms Cut Pact

Sergey Lavrov and Hillary Clinton seated signing documents as aides stand by (AP Images)

Secretary Clinton, seated on right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sign documents in Munich for the New START nuclears arms reduction pact.

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov exchanged diplomatic documents February 5 in Munich, concluding a two-year effort to reduce nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in more than 50 years.

The instruments of ratification signed by Clinton and Lavrov to implement the New START pact govern reducing the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 for each nation from 2,200 warheads. The treaty succeeds the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that expired in December 2009.

Clinton and Lavrov exchanged the agreements on the sidelines of the 47th annual Munich Security Conference, which is an informal meeting of some 350 major policymakers from around the world that examines security threats and challenges.

“We exchange the instruments of ratification for a treaty that lessens the nuclear dangers facing the Russian and American people and the world,” Clinton said February 5.

Clinton said this new treaty is a significant milestone in U.S.-Russian relations.

The treaty, which is the first major arms reduction pact since the last days of the Cold War, will reduce the two nations’ nuclear arsenals to 1,550 nuclear warheads each over seven years. The treaty is set to expire in 10 years unless it is extended for one five-year term. It also includes strict limits on the number of vehicles that can be used to launch the warheads. The United States and Russia hold 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world.

The treaty was signed April 8, 2010, by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague. It is a centerpiece of Obama’s foreign policy and reflects his broader view of a world free of nuclear weapons. Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to foster arms control and nuclear nonproliferation worldwide.

“This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades,” Obama said after the U.S. Senate voted in favor of the treaty. “And it will make us safer.”

The U.S. Senate approved ratification December 22, 2010, and Russia’s parliament gave its final approval in January. Obama signed ratification documents February 2.

But Clinton also said that reaching this agreement figures heavily into renewing close relations between two former Cold War foes.

“With the exchange of these instruments, we commit ourselves to a course of action that builds trust, lessens risks, and improves predictability, stability and security,” Clinton said. “Our countries will immediately begin notifying each other of changes in our strategic forces.”

Within 45 days, the United States and Russia will exchange full data on existing nuclear weapons and facilities and the means to deliver them. In 60 days, both nations will resume on-site inspections that “allow each side to trust, but verify.”