Steps toward a new Start

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Steps toward a new Start

The United States and Russia have agreed on a framework to further reduce their combined nuclear arsenals, which account for 95 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world. In Moscow on Monday, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, in their first summit since Obama came to office, signed a preliminary agreement to work toward a new arms control deal that could replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start I), which expires on Dec. 5.

The United States and Russia currently possess 2,200 and 2,800 nuclear warheads, respectively, and nuclear delivery systems totaling 1,190 and 810 units each. Under the tentative new agreement, the limit on strategic nuclear warheads could be brought down to around 1,680.

The number of delivery system launchers, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, could be cut by as many as half from the current cap.

There is still much work and a few potential stumbling blocks ahead before the two nations can ink the final binding contract.

The two countries are still at odds over the U.S. plan to station a small number of anti-ballistic missiles and missile defense weapons in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia is contending that it won’t agree to a further nuclear arms control program unless the U.S. withdraws its defense plans for the two Eastern European nations. The missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, placed there protect against a possible attack from Iran, could be the hot potato that determines the future of the Start program.

In a speech in Prague last April, Obama declared “with conviction America’s commitment and desire to see the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Moscow agreement has helped the modern global community take a meaningful step toward the universal goal of a nuclear-free world. The initiative could build momentum for other countries with nuclear programs to follow suit, or follow their obligations under the non-proliferation treaty.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference will be held next year. If the United States and Russia sign a final nuclear arms control deal, it could increase pressure on other NPT member countries, as well as non-member countries like Iran and North Korea, to abandon their nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and Russian leaders were of one voice in demanding that Iran and North Korea accept international warnings about their nuclear programs.

Non-proliferation and denuclearization are the common themes, the moral guidelines and the new order in today’s world. North Korea should take these things seriously.

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