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From Cold War Adversaries to Nuclear Partners: US and Russia Agree to Nuclear Treaty

After months of negotiations, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have finally agreed to a nuclear arms reduction treaty. The pair first started negotiations as a follow up to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in April of 2009, but were unable to reach an agreement, as the Kremlin disagreed with US plans to erect a contentious missile defense shield in Central Europe.

From Cold War Adversaries to Nuclear Partners: US and Russia Agree to Nuclear Treaty

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Photo Credit:

According to the BBC, “the new agreement – which came in a phone call between the two leaders – limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each. Both sides will also reduce the number of missiles that carry the warheads. The cuts are substantial – well over 30% for the Russians and around 25% for the Americans, whose current arsenal is smaller.”

Early last year Obama stated that it was time to “reset” relations with Russia, as tensions had been mounting between the two former cold war adversaries for a number of years. Obama maintained that any attempts to erect missile shields in the region for were solely for security purposes, as they were to be directed against Iran, not Russia.

Nuclear disarmament is a complex and lengthy aspect of the world security agenda, but a commitment to reducing operationally deployed nuclear warheads by the United States and Russia is significant, as together the two countries hold 95 percent of the world’s nuclear arms. The Obama administration’s policy of engagement with Russia is also a symbolic step forward in strengthening the current world nuclear conversation. A deep cut by the world’s two biggest nuclear powers could help create the momentum for the nuclear security summit that the Obama Administration is hosting on April 12th, and for a May conference that the administration is holding to review the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

From Cold War Adversaries to Nuclear Partners: US and Russia Agree to Nuclear Treaty

According to, “Today eight countries are possessing nuclear weapons. The five nuclear weapons states United States, Russia (former Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France and China, are the only countries allowed to have nuclear weapons according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) from 1970. All members of the United Nations except Israel, India and Pakistan have signed the NPT.”

Initial reports on the new deal are stating however that some in Moscow are worried that Medvedev may have allowed too much leeway for the US to develop missile defense systems. “It’s always wonderful to see friendly handshakes all around,” says Pyotr Romanov, an expert with the official RIA-Novosti news agency. “But for those of us who remember the late cold-war era, when (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev made concessions to meet American interests, in order to break the ice, there’s a wait-and-see feeling about this.”



Neshani Jani

FPA blogger Neshani Jani holds a Masters degree in Media Culture and Communication from New York University and dual Bachelors degrees in Anthropology and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Davis. She is a freelance writer and is currently helping to manage blog networks for the Foreign Policy Association and the Women's Education Project.

Neshani has a background in journalism and interned with the CBS News program 60 Minutes. Additionally, she is a public and internet radio veteran. She has worked as a research assistant at both the Social Science Research Council and at the Institute for Scientific Analysis and currently blogs for several of the Foreign Policy Association's global affairs blogs.

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