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July 6th, 2009
10:02 AM ET

Mr. Obama goes to Moscow

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/06/obama.russia.issues/art.obama.arrival.afp.gi.jpg caption="President Obama and his family arrive in Moscow on Monday."]

Spencer P. Boyer and James D. Lamond
The Root

Today, President Barack Obama arrives in Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, for a three-day summit. It will be their first face-to-face exchange since meeting in London in early April, when Obama was in Europe for the G-20 and NATO summits. After a frosty U.S.-Russian relationship during most of President George W. Bush’s term in office, this summit offers an opportunity to show Russia and the rest of the world that the new U.S. administration is serious about making a fresh start and is willing to put some substance behind that much-talked-about “reset button.”

While Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and missile defense will be on the summit agenda, the main issue will be replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which is set to expire in December. President George H.W. Bush signed START in 1991, after nearly a decade of negotiations led by the Reagan administration. The treaty significantly slashed warhead deployments in both countries and is largely credited with reducing Cold War-era nuclear tension. At home, START has long been a bipartisan goal, with support from both Democratic and Republican foreign policy experts.

A replacement treaty would mark the first time in almost two decades that the two countries, whose arsenals make up more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, have negotiated a binding and verifiable agreement to reduce their nuclear arms. Such a treaty would facilitate the reduction of nuclear stockpiles and help secure existing Russian nuclear material. A reduction in nuclear stockpiles would, in turn, reduce the risk of theft or illicit sale to criminal or terrorist networks. It would also reduce the risk of an accidental launch, like we almost saw in 1995 when Russia mistook a Norwegian weather satellite for a nuclear attack and almost started a nuclear war. Furthermore, without START, the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) would be gutted because it depends on the verification mechanisms of START. In other words, it’s a big deal.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama • Russia
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Michael C. McHugh

    Unlike Iranor North Korea, the Russians have always been rational actors, and so has China. It is possible to make agreements with them, if these are in our mutual interests.

    July 6, 2009 at 3:10 pm |