Russian and American presidents discussed START follow-on agreement talks and decided to instruct their negotiators in Geneva to keep up good work.

Russian and US presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama discussed progress made in the START follow-on agreement talks by phone, last Saturday.

Both presidents agreed that their respective countries’ delegations in Geneva were working intensively and that substantial progress had been made at the talks.

Medvedev and Obama agreed to instruct their delegations to keep up the intensive dialogue.

It was reported last week that the START follow-on agreement might be signed on December 18. The two presidents will be in Copenhagen that day, attending the UN Climate Change Conference.

Information on the course of the Russian-US talks is scant. It is only known that mutual inspections remain one of the moot points. Moscow and Washington already settled the matter of nuclear warheads and delivery means. The former are to be reduced to 1,500 per signatory, the latter to between 500 and 1,100. These figures were initially released during Obama’s visit to Moscow this July. The presidents then expressed the willingness to sign the new strategic arms reduction agreement by December 5. December 10, the day Obama was scheduled to receive his Nobel Award, was later mentioned as the date of the signing but neither was the document signed then.

William Perry, once the US defense secretary who visited Moscow last week and who is privy to intricacies of the talks, said that work on the new strategic arms reduction treaty could well be finished by December 18.

“It is the Russian military that objects to the START I extension because it bans deployment of new land-based ballistic missiles with MIRVs or Multiple Individual Reentry Vehicles. After all, Russia has RS-24s ready for deployment and the military wants this deployment to begin without delay, right this year,” said Alexander Konovalov, President of the Center for Strategic Estimates and Analysis. “Considering that Russia cannot help removing obsolete missiles of the line, it needs the treaty with the Americans because its lack will mean a colossal disparity in nuclear arsenals. The presidents instructed their teams to come up with the text of the document. I think that come up with it they will. We can last a couple of months without the agreement. Abstaining from making the decisions that will collide with its spirit is what counts.”

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