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24 Mar, 2010 17:25

US and Russia have agreed on START terms

President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama have agreed upon the final details of the new START treaty aimed at cutting stockpiles of nuclear warheads, the US White House has announced.

The treaty will be signed in Prague on April 8.

The statement signals an important move towards the signing of the new treaty since the 1991 START treaty expired in December last year. The negotiation process has been bogged down by the parties’ struggle to find consensus over US missile defense plans for Europe.

Linking offensive and defensive weapons in the treaty was one of Moscow's main demands, and Russian officials say that it has been fulfilled. But Russia still has not achieved all it wanted, Lieutenant General Evgeny Buzhinsky, who formerly served in the International Department of the Russian Ministry of Defense, told RT. The treaty is covering strategic offensive weapons and misses out on ABM system.

“Since we don’t have an ABM treaty, it has been canceled by the US. We wanted to have something in this treaty that would potentially limit American ambitions in ABM systems, so I don’t think we achieved all we planned,” Lt Gen Buzhinksy said. “Realistically speaking, I think there will be interrelation between offensive and defensive arms.”

Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert for the Federation of American Scientists, says the new START treaty will concentrate on reducing both the number of warheads and the vehicles capable of delivering them.

“It’s a complicated document, slimmer than the one we got in 1991, but none the less there is a complex verification regime that is equal – both sides have inspections on the other one. And it’s all about details like how often can you send inspection teams and what are they allowed to do on the ground, what kind of monitoring has to go on, and what kind of data has to be exchanged,” Kristensen told RT.

If [the negotiated treaty] is a reasonable document, and we hope it is, it would be a significant contribution to the improvement of US-Russia relations,” says Aleksandr Pikaev, a political analyst from the Institute for World Economy and International Relations. "I think that many influential constituents, at least here in Moscow and I hope in Washington are interested in that.”

The treaty will make the world a safer place, believes Dmitry Suslov, a political analyst from the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow.

“First there will be no political and legal vacuum in the field of nuclear weapons. Second it will be a big step forward towards making the nuclear non-proliferation regime stricter. It will substantially help the international community to gain success at the Washington conference in April and New York conference in May on missile defense. Because there is a clear linkage between the non-proliferation regime and the commitment of nuclear [armed] countries to go towards reduction of their stockpiles. But the problem now lies not with just Russia and the US, but with the rest nuclear states such as China, India and Pakistan, most likely Israel and of course European countries.”