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6 Jul, 2009 18:03

Russia-US: “global warming” after Ice Age?

Russia and the US have agreed on strategic arms reduction and on the signing of a new treaty to replace the current one, known as START.

Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, on his first visit to Moscow, have agreed they are going to reduce the number of nuclear warheads to between 1500 and 1675, and nuclear missiles to between 500 and 1100, within seven years after a new agreement is ratified.

“We have signed a joint understanding for a follow-up treaty to the START agreement that will reduce our nuclear warheads and delivery systems by up to a third from our current treaty limitations. This legally binding treaty will be completed this year,” President Obama said.

The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START 1, which was signed in 1991, currently places a limit of 6,000 warheads and 1,600 delivery vehicles on each side. It is due to expire in December of this year.

“We have adopted a joint resolution on missile defence. We do have a number of differences in these spheres. Nevertheless, we’ve been able to reach the level of signing a mutual agreement here,” President Medvedev said.

His American counterpart added, “On missile defense, we have agreed that we are going to continue to discuss this critical issue. That is part of the joint statements that we've signed.”

Obama went on to say: “I also believe that it is entirely legitimate for our discussions to talk not only about offensive weapon systems but also defensive weapon systems.”

Moscow wanted to link the strategic arms reduction treaty with U.S. plans to install a missile shield in Eastern Europe. These plans have been poisoning relations between the two countries for several years.

“The document we just signed makes a connection between defensive and offensive weaponry. That is already quite a step forward, because not long ago all we had in this matter was constant disagreement,” Medvedev explained.

Barak Obama continued: “Part of what got us through the Cold War was a sufficient sense of parity and deterrent capability; that both sides, during those very difficult times, understood that a first strike, the attempt to use nuclear weapons in a military conflict against the other, could result in an extremely heavy price.”

Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea

Russia and the US have signed a number of bilateral agreements on anti-missile defense and Afghanistan. An agreement to transport US weapons, military hardware and personnel through Russian territory – in connection with US efforts aimed at providing security and stabilization to the situation in Afghanistan – was one of the agreements signed. Up till now, only humanitarian cargo was permitted.

Washington was also looking for Russian support to put more pressure on Iran and North Korea.

“The situation in the world is changing for the worse and not for the better at the moment. It is directly connected with the appearance of the new nuclear players. Many of them have not even joined the nuclear club, they've either set it openly as their goal or are preparing for it in secret,” the Russian President said.

Developing ties

Also, a joint presidential commission – co-chaired by the US and Russian heads of state – has been set up. It will consist of 13 working groups covering different fields of cooperation, such as nuclear energy and nuclear security, arms control, foreign policy and counter-terrorism, the fight against drug trafficking and other issues.

Speaking at a joint media conference after today’s meeting at the Kremlin, the presidents also noted the importance of developing ties between the two countries. President Medvedev said:

We have also decided that Russian-American relations, namely the level they achieved to date, do not match their potential or the possibilities of our countries. And the most important thing is that the level that we have today does not correspond to the needs of the modern age.”

The Russian leader said “without an active development of our relations in the issues on the foreign affairs agenda, trade, scientific, educational and cultural links, we won’t be able to build a normal road to the 21st century.”

President Obama added that progress in this area could already be seen.

“If you think about the short timeframe from our meeting in London to today, and the fact that we have essentially accomplished all the goals that we had set in London – and these are not insubstantial achievements – I think it's a good sign of progress for the future,” he said.

The protocol meeting between President Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama started in a narrow format with only foreign policy aides and foreign ministers participating. It was planned that this meeting would last for half an hour, but the talks continued for almost one-and-a-half hours.

Then the two countries' delegations joined the discussion. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, however, was not able to come to Moscow because of an elbow injury she suffered last month.

Before the Kremlin meeting, Obama laid flowers at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier near Red Square in Moscow, to commemorate those Russian soldiers who died in WWII.

On Tuesday, the American President is expected to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the former, and actually the only President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Unprecedented security measures

Russian authorities are taking unprecedented measures of security. According to the Interior Ministry, the number of people providing safety and security for the American President and his family during his three day stay in Moscow will exceed 10,000. This is significantly more than for any previous state visit.

The airspace above Moscow is going to be a “no-go zone” for three days, and several fighter jets are ready to take off immediately in case of any threat coming from above – just to be on the safe side.

The Interior Ministry of Russia has even mentioned some innovations in terms of security to be applied during the visit of the US President.

Barack Obama has already acknowledged the strictness of Russian security measures. While a senator and member of an American delegation in 2005, he visited the Russian town of Perm to inspect nuclear security facility. Back then, the officials’ jet was detained for more than three hours, and was cleared only after their diplomatic status was confirmed.

This time it looks like all issues have been taken care of, and everything is going to pass without incident.

Read also: Barack Obama and his family come to Moscow just as foreign tourists