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20 May, 2009 14:00

“Nuclear talks – a success”

According to a source at the Russian Foreign Ministry as cited by Interfax, the negotiations concerning an arms reduction treaty between Russia and the US are over and deemed a success.

“The negotiations are over and we consider them to have been successful,” a source from the Russian foreign ministry told Interfax.

The two sides agreed to resume talks in Geneva from the 1st to the 3rd of June, according to the same source.

“We agreed that the first results of our work on the agreement will be announced during an upcoming Russia-US summit in early July,”
a source from the Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti.

The two nuclear superpowers were discussing a new agreement to replace the Cold War era START treaty to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons.

The major aim of the talks which took place behind closed doors was to prepare a draft for the new treaty prior to President Obama's official visit to Moscow in July.

The US team is led by Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, a nuclear security and Russian expert who headed the Carnegie Moscow Center from 2006 to 2008.

The Russian chief negotiator is Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Security and Disarmament Department Anatoly Antonov.
Experts consider the composition of the delegations to be playing a major role in the success of the negotiations.

“The politics are being done by the people and we see new people involved in this negotiation process from both sides, including the top leaders, the presidents. They already expressed their willingness not only to reset Russian-American relations, but to achieve something important,” says Yury Rogulyov from the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation in Moscow.

The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START 1, which was signed in 1991, currently places a limit of 6,000 warheads and 1600 delivery vehicles on each side. It is due to expire on December 5. The talks were not held before, because the US unilaterally withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2001.

Today neither of the countries possesses such a huge arsenal. According to the data published by RIA, Russia possesses 3909 nuclear warheads, to 5576 for the US. In terms of of missiles, Russia has 814, while the US possesses 1198.

The Russian and American presidents agreed during their first meeting in London in April upon an immediate start to new START talks.

Both sides have to move fast to establish a new agreement, since the old one is due to expire in just six months and before that, the document will have to be ratified by the State Duma and US Congress.

Experts believe missile defense could become a major stumbling block for the renewing of the document. Moscow has insisted the agreement would also regulate the U.S. anti-missile plans for Eastern Europe, which Russia sees as a threat to its national security.

But as American President Barack Obama said, cutting nukes is not the only part of cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Some analysts agree. Andrey Kokoshin, Director of the Institute for International Security said:

“Nuclear arms reduction talks are, maybe, the most visible part of our relations. But, in my view, we also have such an important area of cooperation as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, fissile materials, and technologies which could be used for delivery vehicles.”

Therefore, he said, “we have more prospects in this area than in the reduction of the strategic nuclear weapons.”

The Russian side was also cautiously optimistic concerning the outcome of the talks:

“Equal security can definitely now be achieved without taking into account the situation with missile defense and other aspects such as the possible deployment of weapons in space and plans to produce warheads not armed with nuclear weapons,” Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister stated.