U.S., Russia Sign Treaty To Cut Nuclear Arms
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
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President Obama and his Russian counterpart signed a new START treaty today, calling for cuts in both countries' strategic nuclear arsenals. Mr. Obama said the deal is an important milestone for both arms control and U.S.-Russia relations. The signing took place in Prague, where almost exactly one year ago the president spelled out his vision for a world without nuclear weapons.
From Prague, NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama is quick to caution: ridding the world of nuclear weapons entirely is a long-range ambition that might not happen in his lifetime. But a new START treaty with Russia was one of the benchmarks he set for himself a year ago. He said today's signing represents one brick on a road to a brighter future.
President BARACK OBAMA: The pursuit of that goal will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, and make the United States and the world safer and more secure.
HORSLEY: The agreement requires both the U.S. and Russia to eliminate about a third of their strategic nuclear weapons over the next seven years, and cuts the number of launchers for those weapons in half. It also puts in place a new verification system. Without that, the U.S. would have been unable to monitor Russia's nuclear arsenal since the old START treaty expired in December.
The new treaty was signed just in time for next week's summit meeting in Washington, where leaders of more than 40 countries will gather to discuss steps for safeguarding nuclear material. Mr. Obama says the agreement puts the U.S. and Russia in a stronger position as they urge other countries to resist their own nuclear build-up.
Pres. OBAMA: The fact that we are willing, as the two leading nuclear powers, to continually work on reducing our own arsenals, I think, should indicate the fact that we are willing to be bound by our obligations. And we're not asking any other countries to do anything different.
HORSLEY: Today's treaty was months overdue. And Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the negotiations were difficult. U.S. insistence on pursuing a missile defense system was especially troubling to the Russians. But after the yearlong negotiation, the two presidents have formed a pragmatic working relationship.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes says that's a big turnaround from 15 months ago.
Mr. BEN RHODES (Deputy National Security Adviser): When the president took office, relations with Russia were at a - really at a post-Cold War low. Pursuit of the START treaty, I think, says something about an important landmark in terms of arms control, nuclear policy, but it also demonstrates that we believe we can work together with the Russians on issues of common interest.
HORSLEY: The U.S. badly wants Russia's support, for example, in imposing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Medvedev said through a translator, while sanctions rarely work by themselves, they may be necessary in some circumstances.
President DMITRY MEDVEDEV (Russia): (Through translator) So smart sanctions should be able to motivate certain parties to behave properly. And I'm confident that our teams that will be engaged in consultations will continue discussing this issue.
HORSLEY: There was plenty of fanfare surrounding today's signing inside the ornate Prague castle. To take effect, though, the agreement will have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate. The administration has been consulting with senators from both parties. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged winning 67 votes may not be easy.
Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): You could probably quibble over renaming a post office on any given day in the United States Senate. That's not to say at the end of the day there isn't enough space and time to do this and to demonstrate again for the American people that we have the ability to work together on things that make sense for our national interest.
HORSLEY: Gibbs notes earlier arms control agreements received broad bipartisan support. The administration hopes this one clears the Senate by the end of the year.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, Prague.
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