What’s new about START? Russian FM puts a word in

The new START deal will be based on the principle of “equal and indivisible security for both parties.” The Russian Foreign Minister has revealed more details about the next-era agreement in cutting nuclear weapons.

Sergey Lavrov's media conference in full

Read Russian Foreign Minister's full speech

Read more about new START treaty


Sergey Lavrov spoke about the treaty, due to be signed by Russia and the US in just two days, at a special media conference.

“We have always believed that the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament is the principle of equal and indivisible security for all parties and these are the principles we based on when reaching an agreement,” Lavrov said.

“While working on this document we consistently tried to have all its provisions be based on the principle of parity,” he shared, saying he believes both parties have succeeded in doing this.

“The balance of interests determines the balance of strategic stability,” Russian FM said adding that “everyone will benefit from this predictability.

According to the treaty, the US and Russia will have to reduce and limit their strategic arms in such a way that, seven years after it comes into force, and beyond, the overall number on both sides will not exceed the following quantity:

1. 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles and deployed heavy bombers

2. No more than 1,550 deployed warheads

3. 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers.

Just last week, the Russian foreign minister said that after the deal is signed on Thursday, it will have to be simultaneously submitted for ratification to both the Russian Parliament and the US Congress respectively.

On Monday this week, a Kremlin official said this overlap is not absolutely necessary because“we have more trust in the US then before and we do not believe that the US is going to play tricks with us.”

Among this mood of co-operation and willingness to get the things done, questions remain, with the biggest being whether or not the American Congress will ratify a deal that has interconnections between defense systems and offensive weapons.

Earlier on, Moscow insisted on this connection but American politicians were opposed to it.

During the media conference on Tuesday the Russian foreign minister said that the new START includes a legally-binding provision on the linkage between offensive and defensive arms.

If the situation with missile defense changes both parties have the right to reconsider their decision, Lavrov acknowledged.

“Russia will have the right to withdraw unilaterally from the treaty if the US increases its missile defense and it will affect the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear forces,”he said, pointing out that“it is up to us to decide how much missile defense affects our nuclear capability.”

“Russia will make a unilateral statement that will be part of the documents signed. This is our clear position,” the Russian foreign minister stated.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee comments on this


Former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, Strobe Talbott, also a key adviser on Russia, believes the US Congress will pass the treaty.

“The issue here is very technical and very complex, but what it comes down to is that the Russian Federation wants to make sure that both sides, the US and Russia, recognize that there is a connection between strategic offense and strategic defense. In other words, you can only bring down levels of strategic weaponry to a certain point if you are confident that the other side does not have a strategic anti-ballistic missile system,” explained Talbott.

He assured that this is a concern not only to Russians but to many Americans too. He recalled that, back in the 1960s, it was the American government that persuaded the Soviet side to reduce strategic defense together with strategic offensive weapons.

“The Obama Administration understands that perfectly,” Strobe Talbott assured.

Russia and the US together own about 90 per cent of all nuclear weapons on Earth, so the other members of the nuclear club, both official and otherwise, are looking at the two main nuclear powers to cut down their arsenals too. The START treaty will be a good example for them for some drastic cuts in nuclear weapons showing that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty makes sense. The latter treaty itself is up for review in May 2010.

Former EU representative for Foreign Affairs and ex-NATO Chief Javier Solana has no doubt that it will be an important step to make the world better.

“It will be the beginning of the process of diminishing of the nuclear weapons. It will also help to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty in May,”he said.