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The Russian Nukes will not be dismantled but put in to storage


The US and Russia concluded a deal today to cut their deployed arsenals of nuclear missiles by 30%, in the biggest breakthrough for arms control for two decades.

The treaty, which Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev will sign on 8 April in Prague, lowers the ceiling on the number of operational strategic nuclear weapons from 2,200 to 1,550.

The total number of launchers (missiles and heavy bombers) allowed will be reduced to 800, half the existing ceiling.

"We have turned words into action. We have made progress that is clear and concrete," Obama said. "And we have demonstrated the importance of American leadership and American partnership on behalf of our own security, and the world's."

Speaking in Moscow, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the new treaty was a significant breakthrough in Russia's strategic relationship with the US and in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons globally.

Final agreement on the deal, sealed by a telephone call this morning between the two presidents, had been held up by disagreements over the sharing of data on new missiles, and by US plans to develop a missile defence system in eastern Europe.

Russia wanted the preamble to the treaty to ban the deployment of such systems, which Moscow fears will blunt the effectiveness of its nuclear deterrent. It is understood that the preamble in the treaty agreed today will impose no limits on missile defence but will acknowledge it plays a role in fuelling the nuclear arms race. Lavrov said the new treaty would include a clause saying that if either side believed the other side's anti-missile defence capacity had grown too strong then they could review the treaty.

The agreement will replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), signed at the end of the cold war in 1991, which expired in December.

It also replaces the much looser 2002 Moscow Treaty, which set the existing limit of 2,200 strategic weapons, but lacked any provisions for each side to verify the other was sticking to the bargain.

The treaty is widely seen as restoring some momentum to global arms control, but advocates of disarmament argue it is only a small step on a much longer road.

The cuts in the new Start treaty do not require warheads to be dismantled, but simply removed from the active, deployed missile force to a reserve stockpile.

They represent a small dent in the total number of warheads still in existence - 23,000, more than 90% of which are owned by Russia and the US.

The focus of attention now will be on the degree of commitment that Obama and Medvedev show to continuing talks with the aim of more aggressive cuts in their arsenals in a future treaty.

Much will depend on whether Washington and Moscow can resolve their differences over missile defence, and on the political mood in both countries.

The new Start needs to be ratified by the US Senate and the Russian Duma before coming into force.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament strongly hailed the new treaty as a "major step on the road towards a nuclear-free future".

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "After almost a year of negotiations, these significant cut-backs are very welcome. World leaders must now build on this momentum to secure further rounds of cuts, bringing the other nuclear weapon states into the process. With both Obama's Nuclear Security Summit next month and the review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in May, this is a most timely advance which must be exploited to the full."

"All nuclear weapon states, Britain included, must show their commitment to Obama's worthy aim and push for the biggest strides possible at the upcoming summit meetings," she added.



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