Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for the reduction of their nuclear weapons stockpiles on Thursday.
The new START deal, which will last for ten years, was signed at a meeting in Prague, where President Obama outlined his vision for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation around a year ago.
Speaking after the signing, President Obama said, “This day demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia - the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons - to pursue responsible global leadership.”
President Obama further said that the treaty would significantly reduce missiles and launchers and puts in place a “strong and effective verification regime.” He added that it would also maintain the flexibility needed to protect and advance the U.S.’s national security and guarantee its “unwavering commitment to the security of our allies.”
Describing the deal as a “win-win” for both countries, President Medvedev said, “This agreement enhances strategic ability and, at the same time, allows us to rise to a higher level of cooperation between Russia and the United States.”
Specifically, the treaty agrees to aggregate limits of 1,550 warheads; a combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile launchers, Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments; and separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
The White House noted that the warheads on deployed ICBMs and deployed SLBMs will count toward the limit and each deployed heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armaments would count as one warhead toward this limit. The warhead limit itself was 74 percent lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30 percent lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty, a White House statement added. Further, the limit on launchers and bombers is less than half the corresponding strategic nuclear delivery vehicle limit of the previous START Treaty.
In terms of verification and transparency, the new treaty has a verification regime that combines the appropriate elements of the 1991 START Treaty with new elements tailored to the limitations of the Treaty. In this regard, the White House also stated that measures under the new treaty include “on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the Treaty.”
The signing of the new treaty came two days after the announcement of the Obama administration of its Nuclear Posture Review, in which the U.S. forswore nuclear attacks on all nuclear states compliant with the Non-Proliferation treaty. However, the U.S. reiterated its commitment to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.
The agreement also comes less than a week before before a 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit that President Obama will host in Washington. On April 12-13, leaders from a range of nuclear and non-nuclear powers, including India, will gather to discuss issues surrounding the question of nuclear proliferation and security.