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Future of the U.S.—Russia START Treaty

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Future of the U.S.—Russia START Treaty

According to reports, Russia has reversed its decision to station missiles in the Western outpost of Kaliningrad , next door to the European Union. If true, the move could be a clear signal of a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations. President Barack Obama has made stronger US/Russia relations a top priority of his first year in office. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke by telephone earlier this week.


A Russian official said that Russia was responding to "the fact that the new US administration is not rushing through plans" to deploy its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic . The Obama administration has already made clear it will pursue bilateral and multilateral nuclear arms control treaties which Former Bush rejected, beginning with negotiations to replace the START 1 Treaty, which expires in December.


START negotiations began in 1982 when the U.S. proposed large reductions in the nuclear arsenals of both sides. After exchanging proposals for the format of the START Treaty, President Ronald Regan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev settled on a limit of 1,600 Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles and a ceiling of 6,000 warheads on these Delivery Vehicles.


There were numerous other concessions on limiting arms such as thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Submarine-launched ballistic missiles and Heavy Bombers. The START Treaty was signed by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary Gorbachev on July 31st, 1991 .


Pavel Podvig is a researcher at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and he's Editor of the blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Some found it surprising that during her confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indiana Senator Dick Lugar agreed that negotiations on the START 1 treaty was the most important non-proliferation issue. We asked Podvig if the treaty expires this December, is it really that big a deal?

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