Obama, Medvedev Agree to New START in Prague

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev on Thursday signed a new agreement on nuclear disarmament – the most comprehensive within the last two decades. The new “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”, or START, supersedes and extends the START I agreement from 1991 (ratified in 1994), which expired in December 2009.

The new START encompasses a clear reduction of nuclear armoury on both sides. Within the next seven years the leaders of the U.S. and Russia have committed their nations to reducing the number of strategic nuclear warheads by almost one third, from 2,200 to 1,550 each. However, before coming into effect, the treaty will have to be ratified by the respective parliaments.

The agreement marks a “historical moment”, according to Dmitri Medvedev and is a big step in normalizing the relations of the two countries. This latest agreement comes as the United States holds off on plans for a European-based, missile-defense system. Although Barack Obama abandoned the plans to base interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania remain in talks as possible sites.

Russia has reserved itself the right to withdraw from the treaty if it feels “threatened” by the missile plan or other U.S. security ambitions.

That is why the U.S. president is to meet with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his fellow heads of state from the region, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria, this evening for a working dinner in Prague. The leaders will discuss the revised plans for the anti-missile shield. Other issues are also expected to come up in the course of the meeting, such as the political situations in Afghanistan, Iran and cooperation with and within NATO.

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