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US and Russia talk nukes

By Daniel Fuchs
Published: April 2010

For the past year, both the United States and Russia have been engaging in talks to create a new nuclear arms agreement, named START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).

The previous 1991 START bill expired in December 2009. Both countries signed the bill on Thursday, April 8.

This new START bill will limit arms down to about 1,550 missiles and 800 launchers for each country.

The bill follows the 2002 Moscow Treaty, which limited arms to around 2,200 missiles.

The original START bill, written on the heels of the Cold War, limited arms to around 6,000 missiles and 1,500 launchers when it came into effect in 1994, halving the amount proposed in 1991.

This agreement, however, has come with much difficulty from both countries. The United States and Russia bring tension to the agreement even though they both have purposely remained quiet about the dealings.

Talks over the agreement actually began in April of 2009, but due to the continued disagreements between the United States and Russia, no settlement could be reached until March 26.

Both Bulgaria and Romania announced US military bases while the negotiations were going on, causing the Russian government to become cautious and hesitant during negotiations.

In turn, Russia stated that the government will pull out of the treaty if the missile bases are deemed a threat.

Russia has expressed interest in using the agreement to determine the difference between offensive and defensive weapons, but the United States disagreed with that proposal.

The issue was resolved in the preamble to the bill, which states that the agreement only applies to offensive missiles, even though there is a direct relationship between both offensive and defensive missiles.

Nevertheless, both Washington and Moscow signed the bill last Thursday. The bill went  through the two nation’s legislative bodies for ratification so that it could be signed on April 8.

It was unclear whether or not Russia’s legislature would ratify the bill due to some of the recent announcements coming out of Eastern Europe, such as the new bases in Romania and Bulgaria.

There were also doubts that Congress would ratify the bill.

While many Congressmen, including chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, support the bill wholeheartedly, many Congressmen, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressed concern that the bill would limit US defenses and requested a modernization of nuclear facilities and testing before the signing of the bill.

President Obama, however, remains hopeful and enthusiastic about the new bill,  one of his biggest achievements in foreign policy.

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