Hopeful signs for Russian-American arms control talks
At his first White House press conference, US President Barack Obama said that nuclear weapons proliferation can only be countered effectively once the USA and Russia, with the largest arsenals, can reach agreement on arms reduction. President Obama believes that disarmament talks should be resumed.
At his first White House press conference, US President Barack Obama said that nuclear weapons proliferation can only be countered effectively once the USA and Russia, with the largest arsenals, can reach agreement on arms reduction. Obama noted that the non-proliferation regime has weakened significantly; a destabilization threat has emerged in the Middle East due to Iran’s attempts to develop a military nuclear program, and there is a threat of a nuclear arms race in that region of the world. Obama said that when he spoke with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, he said that nuclear disarmament talks should be resumed; this would create favorable conditions for non-proliferation agreements with other countries.
President Medvedev’s press secretary Natalia Timakova told us that the topic of disarmament had indeed been raised in the first (and thus far, the only) Obama-Medvedev telephone conversation. Timakova said: “What we have been hearing from members of the new US administration is drawing a positive reaction from the Kremlin.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to Obama’s statements. In a Vesti-24 interview, he said that Russia had spent several years trying to break through a negotiations impasse with the previous US administration regarding a new strategic offensive weapons treaty to replace START I (which expires in December 2009). Disagreements focused on arms control methods: “We have noted that the Obama team is prepared to discuss the whole range of issues, including control and verification mechanisms and reciprocal inspections. As soon as the disarmament group at the State Department is established, we expect to start consultations with no further delay.”
Alexei Arbatov, head of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO, Russian Academy of Sciences), told us that the previous US administration had talked of reducing warhead numbers (removing some warheads from missiles and placing them in storage), without cutting the number of delivery vehicles; but Russia wasn’t satisfied with that. According to Arbatov, it is too soon to speak of any other countries joining the nuclear disarmament process – their arsenals are not of comparable size. France has 300 warheads, Britain has 150, China has 20; Russia has about 4,000 and the USA has over 5,000.
Senator Vasili Likhachev predicts that the first disarmament agreement announcements may be made in April, when the Russian and US presidents meet at a G20 summit in London.