Russia and US talk strategic arms reduction

The second round of Russian-US consultations on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty has begun in Geneva. Talks between experts will last for two to three days.

The specialists are expected to come up with a detailed plan of further work on the agreement by a Russia-US summit at the beginning of July. According to Interfax news agency, the text agreed upon by both sides will be submitted to US Congress by August.

The talks are taking place behind closed doors, with both sides saying these are working consultations.

Russian and American officials held the first round of bilateral talks on a new document in Moscow on May 19-20. Russia's delegation was headed by Anatoly Antonov, director of the Foreign Ministry's department for security and disarmament. Rose Gottemoeller, US Assistant Secretary of State for verification and compliance, represented the United States.

After the first round of negotiations Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said they passed “in a constructive and working atmosphere.”

The current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START-1 was signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1991 and expires on December 5, 2009. START-1 obliges Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each.

In 2002, a follow-up agreement on strategic offensive arms reduction was concluded in Moscow. The deal, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.

According to a report published by the US State Department this April, as of January 1, 2009, Russia had 3,909 nuclear warheads and 814 delivery vehicles, including ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers.

The same report stated the United States had 5,576 warheads and 1,198 delivery vehicles.

Moscow, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement with Washington in 2005, expects the United States to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.

“The final result of the talks should certainly be a step forward compared to the current regime of limitations,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said.