Friday, November 27, 2009

Kremlin says U.S. and Russia to sign weapons-reduction deal in December

Anybody still remember the Cold War? Remember air-raid sirens and fallout shelter drills? Remember Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev saying "We will bury you?" Remember the Soviet Union? Those days were brought to mind Friday when Russia said it expected to sign a new agreement with the United States to destroy a portion of the two countries' arsenals of thousands of nuclear weapons, according to the Reuters international news service. The new deal, designed to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that expires Dec. 5, got a boost in April when Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama issued a joint statement about reaching a new agreement and again in July when the two agreed to cut their arsenals by a third. Diplomatic frictions that damaged Russia-U.S. relations were relaxed in September when Obama said he would roll back plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe, even though outstanding issues from Russia's brief war with U.S. ally Georgia remain unresolved. Today's report was attributed by Reuters to an unnamed source in Minsk, where Medvedev was meeting with regional leaders. "This treaty is a great move ahead and will improve relations between the United States and Russia," Roland Timerbayev, a former Soviet ambassador and nuclear arms negotiator, told Reuters. But both sides said it is possible that they will not be able to reach a deal before the Dec. 5 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. "The delegations of Russia and the United States are working incessantly but not looking at the time," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "The timeframe for signing new agreement is important but does not define the negotiating process; rather, (the process is defined) by the striving of the leaders of Russia and the United States to agree a full, properly working bilateral agreement." Diplomats from both countries say continuing cooperation between Russia and the United States on dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions have helped them to resolve remaining issues on a new treaty.

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