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US Senators Visit Russia to Improve Global Arms Control

Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, authors of U.S. legislation to reduce the post-Soviet nuclear arsenal, are in Russia in an effort to further tighten global controls on weapons of mass destruction. VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports.

Speaking Monday at a large public event in the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow, Senator Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn underscored the common interest and unique responsibilities the United States and Russia share as nuclear powers.

Nunn said bilateral interests in a healthy economy, citizenry, and environment, as well as a common vulnerability to catastrophic terrorism, should prompt the two countries to lead by example in reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons.

"This alignment of our interests must lead to an alignment of our actions, or our vital interests will be lost in our non-vital disagreements," said Nunn. "Without joint actions, our citizens will gradually lose their perspective of the alignment of our interests, and the lack of public support for cooperative efforts will undermine even visionary political leadership."

Nunn called for both countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and to remove weapons from hair trigger alert. He also urged improved procedures to verify compliance with weapons agreements and also to prevent more nations from acquiring nuclear weapons and enrichment capabilities.

Senator Lugar said the U.S.-Russian experience in arms control will be critical to a successful diplomatic effort to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power.

"Russia and the United States also must come together to address the threat posed by Iran's nuclear weapons program," said Lugar. "For too long our governments have sometimes been at odds over how to respond to Tehran's behavior. The differences in our approaches have narrowed recently and there are prospects for continued cooperation between Moscow and Washington within the U.N. Security Council."

Senator Lugar said another key to bilateral cooperation is Russian membership in the World Trade Organization. He said the cold war-era Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which the United States used to link trade relations with human rights in the Soviet Union, no longer applies to Russia and should be revoked.

Senator Lugar also noted a significant expansion of U.S.-Russian business ties, including a 20 percent increase in American exports to Russia last year to $4.7 billion. He said the improved business climate includes deepening cooperation on piracy, counterfeiting, border controls, pharmaceutical test data and intellectual property rights.

Former Senator Nunn concluded his speech with a warning that the world today is in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. He used an old saying to frame his call for cooperation, "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together."