U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev are set to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty on April 8 that will reduce the atomic arsenals of the two largest nuclear powers. After the treaty is signed, the U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma must ratify the treaty before it becomes binding. A senior U.S. official says she hopes to have it ratified by year's end.
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher says the goal is to submit the treaty to the Senate within the next three months.
She says two of the treaty's three parts are already complete and that the technical annexes that address details of the verification and inspection processes are being worked out.
"So sometime later this month, various parts of the treaty will become public and be part of the debate," said Ellen Tauscher.
The new treaty replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, that expired in December. The new agreement will reduce the number of strategic nuclear arms of both sides by about a third - to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on each side - and provides for verification and monitoring.
Tauscher says the agreement demonstrates Russian and U.S. commitment to arms reduction and nuclear non-proliferation, and it shines a spotlight on nations that are believed to be pursuing nuclear weapons.
"The more that we make the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] the cornerstone of the non-proliferation strategy of the world, the more it calls out people like North Korea and Iran, and the more we can bring people together in a kind of 'big tent' environment to agree on the NPT principles," she said.
U.S. and Russian officials negotiated intensely during the past year to reach the new START agreement. Russian opposition to U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe was a major obstacle in those talks.
Tauscher stressed that the new treaty does not constrain U.S. missile defense. She added that U.S. and Russian officials are talking about ways to cooperate on missile defense.