Russia, U.S. to ink new START pact

14:46, February 05, 2010      

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Russia and the United States may sign a new nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Russian president's aide said on Wednesday, February 3. This is referred to as the first treaty on strategic arms reduction to be concluded in nearly 20 years.

Ellen Tauscher, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, said at the Global Zero Summit in Paris, France on Tuesday that "the U.S. was approaching "the finish line" in talks with Russia on a new nuclear weapons disbarment treaty"… "Even though we all know we have a long way to go…"

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and Its Importance, signed in 1991, expires on December 5, 2009… to extend elements of the former START until the new treaty has been signed and ratified.

According to the Russian "Outlook Newspaper", the two sides (Russia and the U.S.) have tentatively agreed that the signing ceremony will be held in a third nation, and the United States has deliberately chosen the Czech Republic as the signatory to the treaty.

The Wall Street Journal noted in an article published on Tuesday that the agreement was approved in principle, quoting a U.S. government official. The two sides agreed to lower the ceiling for deployed nuclear weapons from the 2,200 decided in 1991 to between 1500 and 1675, the article acknowledged. This represents the first breakthrough in the talks for consecutive months to replace the 1991 START.

In the meanwhile, Russia's "Paper Newspaper" reportedly says that the Western world has long been concerned with tactical nuclear weapons owned by the Russian side; Russia unilaterally declared in 1992 a large-scale reduction of tactical nuclear weapons and to pull out nuclear weapons from its border region, and this decision was however not put into practice. In 1998, Russia once again claimed that it intended to re-deploy its nuclear weapons to the regions bordering European nations to cope with or respond to NATO's eastward expansion.

Unlike the United States, Russia has not substantially reduced its tactical nuclear weapons, and it has, nevertheless, been able to gain in the spheres relative to the U.S. advantage.

According to estimates of the U.S. government, Russia now owns 3,800 tactical nuclear weapons whereas the United States currently only owns 500. Poland has, with the backing of the American government, has claimed repeatedly over the past 10 years that Russia deployed tactical nuclear weapons in the Kaliningrad Oblast, but Russia again flatly denied in 2008.

After the U.S. announcement to adjust its program for deploying its anti-missile shield (in Eastern Europe), Russia decided to abandon the deployment of the Iskander Missile Program in Kaliningrad Oblast. Nevertheless, there are still some lingering doubts in Western nations. So, Swedish and Polish foreign ministers in their recent signed articles urge Russian a technical nukes pullout of EU borders. Carl Bildt and Radek Sikhorski in their Monday talks appealed to Moscow and Washington to sharply reduce their arsenals of tactical nuclear weapons and demand Russia pull out its nuclear weapons from the area bordering the European Union.

The Russian "Newspaper Paper" also noted that for Russia, the tactical nuclear arms is the sole magic weapon for the maintenance of its balance of power with the United States since its conventional forces have increasingly been lagging behind.

Moreover, in the view of Dr. Alexei Arbatov, director of the center for international security at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons is even much harder because, technically speaking, the verification of the stockpiles of tactical nuclear weapons will be more complex and difficult.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a Moscow news conference on Wednesday that his country is ready and fully prepared to hold dialogue relating to the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from a third country. However, he underscored that the dialogue should be conducted directly.

By People's Daily Online and contributed by PD resident reporter in Moscow Zhang Guangzheng
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