Obama, Medvedev sign treaty to reduce nuclear weapons
Thursday, April 8, 2010; 9:31 AM
PRAGUE -- President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a sweeping new arms reduction pact Thursday that pledges to reduce the stockpile of deployed, strategic nuclear weapons in both countries and commits the old Cold War adversaries to new procedures to verify which weapons each country possesses.
Obama arrived in this historic city Thursday morning to formalize a step toward the vision he laid out here a year ago -- of a world without nuclear weapons.
The leaders met privately for about an hour before signing the pact in a ceremony hosted by the Czechs and full of symbolism. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was among the many dignitaries looking on as Obama and Medvedev began signing, at one point exchanging amused glances as if to say, "This isn't so hard."
"Together, we have stopped the drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation," Obama said in remarks a short time later. ". . . 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."
U.S. officials said the full treaty document, just now finished after months of negotiation, would be posted on the Internet later Thursday. The White House also announced that Medvedev would visit the United States for a summit this summer.
The treaty, called New START, imposes new limits on ready-to-use, long-range nuclear weapons and pledges to reduce the two biggest nuclear arsenals on the globe. Both countries will be limited to 1,550 ready-to-use, long-range nuclear weapons in addition to the other parts of their nuclear stockpile.
Arms control advocates have expressed disappointment in the treaty, saying it does not go far enough in reducing the dangerous weapons on both sides. Some conservatives have raised questions about the treaty's impact on the American nuclear deterrent.
But experts from the right and the left agree the treaty extends a verification plan that has allowed the world's two nuclear giants to maintain stability that has existed for the past 20 years.
In the United States, attention will soon turn to the Senate, where the White House is pushing for ratification of the pact by the end of 2010.
In a briefing on Air Force One en route to Prague, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs expressed optimism that the Senate will act despite the partisan rancor of the past year.
"We are hopeful that reducing the threat of nuclear weapons remains a priority for both parties," Gibbs said. White House officials said they will begin formally briefing senators Thursday.
Senior U.S. officials said Obama's trip to Prague is designed to set the stage for further efforts by the president to argue for reductions in the spread of nuclear weapons around the globe.