Obama, Russian leader give formal blessing to landmark nuclear arms treaty to cut weapons
President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Friday to a sharp cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both nations in the most comprehensive arms control treaty in two decades. "We have turned words into action," Obama declared.
Obama said the pact, to be signed April 8 in Prague, was part of his effort to "reset" relations with Russia and a step on a path toward "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
The agreement would require both sides to reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons by about a third, from 2,200 now to 1,500 each. The pact, replacing and expanding a 1991 treaty that expired in December, was a gesture toward improved U.S.-Russian relations that have been badly frayed.
"In many ways, nuclear weapons represent both the darkest days of the Cold War, and the most troubling threats of our time. Today, we have taken another step forward in leaving behind the legacy of the 20th century while building a more secure future for our children," Obama said at the White House.
In Russia, Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told the Interfax news agency, "This treaty reflects the balance of interests of both nations."
Both sides would have seven years after the treaty's ratification to carry out the approximately 30 percent reduction in long-range nuclear weapons. The agreement also calls for smaller cuts to warheads and bombs based on planes, ships and land.
"We have turned words into action. We have made progress that is clear and concrete. And we have demonstrated the importance of American leadership _ and American partnership _ on behalf of our own security, and the world's," Obama said.
Though the agreement must still be ratified by the Senate and the Russian Duma before it takes effect, Obama and Medvedev plan to sign it next month in Prague, the city where last April, Obama delivered his signature speech on arms control.
Speaking in the White House briefing room, Obama said the treaty by the globe's two largest nuclear powers would "send a clear signal that we intend to lead" the rest of the world in reducing the nuclear threat.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that the U.S. and Russia still possess more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. "We do not need such large arsenals to protect our nation," she said.
She emphasized the verification mechanism in the treaty, a key demand of the U.S. that was resisted by Russia and was one of the sticking points that delayed completion of the deal. It will "reduce the chance for misunderstandings and miscalculations," she told reporters.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized the support of the military for the arsenal reductions in the agreement, saying that commanders around the world "stand solidly behind the treaty."
Friday's remarks by administration officials were aimed toward the Senate and marked the beginning of a long and probably tough campaign to win ratification.