Dmitry Medvedev welcomes US nuclear arms treaty
Russian president says country is ready to ratify the arms reduction pact with the US
Tom Parfitt in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 December 2010 18.53 GMT
MPs in Russia could approve a new strategic arms reduction treaty with the US as early as tomorrow after President Dmitry Medvedev welcomed the pact.
The country’s overwhelmingly pro-Kremlin parliament is likely to push the agreement through swiftly, despite doubts over Washington’s desire to station a missile defence shield in Europe.
Medvedev’s office said today he was “pleased to learn that the United States Senate has ratified the Start Treaty and expressed hope that the State Duma and the Federation Council [lower and upper houses of parliament] will be ready to consider this issue shortly and to ratify the document”.
The US Senate voted 71 to 26 in favour of the treaty yesterday, despite expectations that Republican members might try to block its passage.
The speaker of the State Duma, Boris Gryzlov, said the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party, which dominates the chamber, was ready to approve the treaty at a parliamentary session scheduled tomorrow.
The speaker of the Federation Council, Sergei Mironov, said he could push it through the same day.
Under New Start, as the agreement is called, strategic nuclear warheads deployed by each country will be reduced to 1,550 within seven years. Deployed missile launchers would be cut to 700.
Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council’s foreign relations committee, said the treaty “represents a shift away from cold war mentality and demonstrates that Russia and the US are focused on achieving 21st-century global security”.
Its ratification in both countries will be seen as step forward after a difficult period in bilateral relations since Medvedev and Barack Obama signed the treaty in Prague in April.
Two months after that meeting, the US exposed 10 Russian sleeper agents living in New York and Washington, although the fallout was partly defused when they were exchanged for four men jailed in Russia who had allegedly worked for western intelligence agencies.
Relations appeared to be warming last month when the Nato military alliance invited Russia to participate in a US-led missile defence system about which Moscow is deeply suspicious. But the thaw came under threat when WikiLeaks revealed US diplomatic cables suggesting Russia is a “mafia state”.
Analysts say the treaty overrides such irritants, showing progress in the attempts to improve ties with Russia, which began after Obama came to power.
Sergei Rogov, head of the influential US and Canada Institute in Moscow, told the RIA Novosti news agency: “It is, of course, a positive step and it shows that the ‘re-set’ in Russian-American relations is bringing real results, but the question now is, what next?”
Top of the agenda for the Kremlin will be hammering out details of its role in the missile defence project. Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, warned this month that Russia would be obliged to deploy “new strike forces” on its borders if talks with Nato over the system failed to show progress.