Thursday: U.S., Russia Sign Nuclear Treaty; Kyrgyzstan Government Ousted
President Barack Obama, Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, center, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev toast after after signing the new START in Prague. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.)
President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met in Prague on Thursday to sign a sweeping arms control pact, a landmark accord that will require the former Cold War adversaries to reduce their nuclear arsenals by 30 percent.
The signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty marks an important step toward President Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons laid out nearly a year ago to the day.
If ratified by Congress and Russia’s Parliament, START would cap the number of strategic warheads each nation could deploy at no more than 1,550. The treaty, which is being dubbed New Start, would further limit each side to deploying 700 land-, air- and sea-based missile launchers.
For the United States and Russia, the agreement represents a potential strengthening of ties that have been strained in recent years.
“When the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it is not good for either of our nations, nor is it good for the world,” President Obama said. “Together, we have stopped the drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation.”
Thursday’s ceremony also sets the stage for an arms control summit with 40 heads of state hosted by President Obama in Washington next week.
With an agreement now in place, U.S. diplomats will be able to show leaders at the summit that America is meeting its “obligation to work toward disarmament,” says Steven Pifer on the Brookings Institution’s Up Front Blog. “That will put them in a stronger position to press the conference to adopt more stringent measures to make it more difficult for other countries to acquire nuclear weapons.”
“New Start” still leaves each country with enough weapons “to wipe out whole continents, but it makes the Nobel peace prize sitting on Mr Obama’s mantelpiece look a little less like an invitation to hubris,” says the Economist.
“Let’s hold off on the overheated hyperbole about the Prague treaty,” says David Hoffman at Foreign Policy. “Obama promised last year in his speech in Prague to deliver a treaty that is ‘sufficiently bold.’ This one is sufficient, but it’s modest, not bold.”
The “accord helps improve U.S.-Russian relations, but differences in capabilities and doubts about intentions will make further steps harder,” says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the International Herald Tribune. “NATO states worry about Russian bullying and so-called ‘tactical nuclear weapons,’ while Russia will cling to its nuclear weapons unless conventional military balances are readjusted and it is reassured about future U.S. missile defense capabilities.”
In terms of ratification, “No Republican has any appetite to hand a victory to the head of the Democratic Party,” says Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “The practical truth is that although the administration wants to get the treaty ratified before the end of the year, and may succeed, it will most likely occur only in a lame duck session after the elections.”
Kyrgyzstani Opposition Overthrows Government
A day after deadly clashes in Kyrgyzstan forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital, opposition leaders have claimed they have successfully ousted the government and would remain in office until new elections are held in six months.
Rescue Teams Resume Search for W.Va. Miners
Rescue teams resumed the search for four workers trapped in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine after the worst U.S. mining accident since 1984. Rescuers early Thursday began a five-mile trek into the mine after drilling a series of holes to vent toxic levels of methane gas.