NO DATE OF START FOLLOW-ON AGREEMENT WAS SET
For all their bold words and promises, Moscow and Washington remain suspicious of each other.
Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama failed to reach an agreement on signing of the START follow-on agreement. The United States refuses to weaken control over Russian ICBMs. Experts point out that the vaunted "reload" remains a declaration rather than anything else.
“The START treaty was in the focus of the negotiations. We’ve made progress,” Obama said in Copenhagen. Medvedev added that the positions of the two countries were identical, problems solved. And yet, neither the presidents nor negotiators said when the strategic arms reduction agreement was to be signed.
A source in Russian delegation said that the Russian and U.S. presidents had had timetables of their European tours deliberately synchronized to meet and sign the new agreement on December 18-19 (and leave details for supplements to be signed at a later date). Diplomatic circles meanwhile said that the Americans blocked the signing because the negotiators had failed to come up with a mutually acceptable level of control over Russian missiles.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on the eve of the presidential meeting that the Americans had been taking their time with the matters of “a profound reduction of strategic offensive arms” and “mechanisms adequate to the new treaty, mechanisms both easier to implement and inexpensive.” American officials refuted Lavrov’s statements but confirmed existence of problems with control and verification mechanisms. They said Russia wanted to keep to itself details of its work on missiles of the new generation.
Sources in the Russian delegation reckoned that the Americans wanted to sign the START follow-on agreement in January now but warned that it was just a guess. Russia had missed the chance to sign the document when Washington would have found it appropriate (December 5-10, before Obama wrnt to Oslo to collect his Nobel Award).
“Opposition in the U.S. Senate is seething over withdrawal of American inspectors from Votkinsk,” said Yevgeny Myasnikov, an expert with the Center for Disarmament Studies. “It demands transparency of telemetric data even though this matter is of little practical importance for the new document. In the START I, it was a means of discovering how many missiles a missile can carry. The new treaty meanwhile is supposed to be about control over the number of warheads in general.”
Talking a “reload” in the relations with Russia, the United States lacks readiness to carry it out and keeps making use of the arguments that were valid in the late 1970s. “The “reload” is a fiction. Russia and the United States distrust each other,” political scientist Aleksei Arbatov pointed out.
According to the New York Times, Moscow and Washington consider a more profound reduction of deployed warheads (1,000 instead of the 1,500 permitted by the summer agreement between the presidents).