Russia nuke deal, shot in arm for Obama

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama’s team has scored a key foreign policy win and bolstered international stability with an apparent new nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia, according to analysts.

In Moscow, a Kremlin source told AFP on Wednesday that Russia and the United States have agreed “all the documents” for a successor to the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and will likely sign it in Prague.

Czech TV Nova said it would be inked on April 8.

US officials said “technical details” still need to

be worked out, but that

US, Russian and Czech officials were considering Prague as a venue for signing the eventual treaty to replace the one that expired in December.

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons specialist at the New America Foundation, said the deal “shows we can still do arms control,” adding the United States had negotiated nothing so complex in over a decade.

The deal provides for modest cuts but at least continues “the momentum of reductions,” after the George W Bush administration gutted the US capacity to conduct arms control negotiations, he said.

“This (new treaty) is not the end-all and be-all of arms control. The fact that they could do it at all is what’s impressive,” Lewis told AFP. The Centre for American Progress, a think tank, said in an e-mail that the reported deal “marks an historic achievement that will increase the safety and security of the United States and our allies.” It “reduces the threat of nuclear war, marks a significant step in advancing President Barack Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and is a tangible result” of Obama’s bid to improve ties with Russia, CAP added.

In Prague last April, Obama gave a major speech calling for a world free

of nuclear weapons, while acknowledging he may

not live to see that

goal achieved.

“The new START agreement also lays the groundwork for the United States and Russia to begin additional negotiations to hammer out an even more far-reaching agreement,” the research centre said.

Analysts said it could help pave the way, for example, for a deal that includes cuts in tactical or so-called battlefield nuclear weapons. Analyst Miles Pomper called the deal “a significant foreign policy achievement,” as it comes before a nuclear security summit next month and the review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May.

He said it would in

particular give “some positive momentum” to the NPT conference, which requires nuclear powers like Russia and the US to show progress on disarmament.