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Moscow Times
July 7, 2009
Obama, Medvedev Will Cut Stockpiles
By Nikolaus von Twickel / The Moscow Times

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev announced substantial progress in crucial nuclear arms talks and on military cooperation after their much-anticipated first summit in the Kremlin on Monday.

Negotiators on both sides reached a framework agreement on replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires Dec. 5, with a deal that will cut their arsenals to the lowest level of any U.S.-Russia arms control agreement, both presidents told reporters after more than three hours of talks Monday afternoon.

In what they call a joint understanding, Obama and Medvedev called for a reduction of both countries nuclear arsenals from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads and from 1,600 to between 500 and 1,100 delivery vehicles.

Both sides have seven years to reach these figures, and the new treaty will run for 10 years, according to a joint statement published on the Kremlins web site.

Medvedev called the agreement a reasonable compromise and said he hoped a new treaty would be agreed by the end of the year.

But he added that serious differences remain over U.S. plans to put elements of a missile shield in Central Europe.

Obama, who has rejected Russian attempts to link the shield with the new arms treaty, said he hoped to reach a deal with Russia on missile defense and reiterated Washingtons viewpoint that the shield was primarily intended to deal with possible attack from Iran or North Korea and not to weaken Russias military capability.

Obama added that his administration was reviewing the plans developed and pushed under his predecessor, George W. Bush, and promised that Washington would discuss the results of the review with Moscow.

We will share the results and see what we can do together, he said.

Medvedev welcomed the move, saying it differed substantially from the Bush administrations policy of denying any interrelation of offensive and defensive weapons.

Obama also said he wanted to host a summit on global nuclear security next year.

He said it would be difficult for both the United States and Russia to show leadership unless they are willing to manage and reduce their own nuclear stockpiles.

We must lead by example, and thats what we are doing here today, Obama said.

Progress on the replacement treaty for START I was widely expected, and analysts had said there was hardly hope that it could be worked out by December without any formal understanding at the summit.

Yet doubts remained because both sides have shown considerable differences over details such as reductions in missile launchers and Moscows insistence of linking the talks with the planned U.S. missile shield.

Both sides also announced Monday that Russia would allow the United States to ship arms and personnel over its territory to Afghanistan for NATOs anti-terrorism operations there and that both countries armed forces would resume cooperation that was suspended after Russias brief war with Georgia last year.

Obama explicitly mentioned Georgia as an area of disagreement, saying that both sides had different views on the countrys borders.

I reiterated my firm belief that Georgias sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, Obama said.

Ties hit their worst level since the 1990s last year after Russia sent troops into Georgia and subsequently recognized its breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent.

In a clear effort to demonstrate both sides potential for cooperation, Moscow and Washington also agreed to re-establish a joint commission to account for missing soldiers of both countries dating back to World War II.

The commission was restored five years after Moscow froze its side of the body, the White House said in a statement.

The two leaders also agreed to resurrect a joint body established in the 1990s that had withered in Bushs first term. Known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission because of the participation of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the new body could become the Biden-Putin commission if the same officeholders are chosen. The new commission will cover energy, fighting terrorism and drug trafficking and boost business and scientific links.

Both sides also agreed to share more information on the heroin trade in Afghanistan and on organized crime.

In a memorandum of understanding on health, the presidents agreed to cooperate in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, including swine flu.

Obama and Medvedev made optimistic statements to reporters before entering closed-door talks in the Kremlin.

If both sides work hard, we can make extraordinary progress, Obama said.

Yet despite the high hopes, Kremlin protocol did not label the event a state visit but gave it a more low-key working character. No high-ranking officials greeted Obama when Air Force One touched down in unseasonably cold, rainy weather at the airport.

On Tuesday, Obama will have lunch with opposition representatives, including former chess champion Garry Kasparov, and attend a forum of civil society representatives and nongovernmental organizations.

He is also scheduled to talk to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and make a major speech to graduates of Moscows New Economic School.

Also Tuesday, he was scheduled to have breakfast with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whom he criticized last week as having one foot in the old way of doing business. Putin hit back over the weekend, saying Russians are standing firmly on both feet.

Obama briefly touched on Russian internal affairs Monday.

Answering a reporters question on who he thought was in charge, he made it clear that he thought the division of powers between the Kremlin and Moscows White House was working effectively.

My understanding is that President Medvedev is the president and Prime Minister Putin is the prime minister and that they allocate power in accordance with Russias form of government, in the same way that we allocate power in the United States, he said.