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US-Russia START Treaty Gore Into Effect

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov smile after finalizing the New START treaty during the Conference on Security Policy in Munich, Germany, February 5, 2011

The New START nuclear weapons treaty between the United States and Russia has taken effect. The agreement will reduce both countries’ stockpiles of strategic arms, and will reinstate mutual inspections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchanged documents at the Munich, Germany Security Conference Saturday, formally putting the treaty into force.

New START will reduce the limit on U.S. and Russian strategic warheads within seven years, from 2,200 to 1,550. The agreement will be in effect for ten years.

Both sides are required to exchange information about the numbers, locations and characteristics of the weapons covered by the treaty within 45 days.

The U.S. and Russia can start inspecting each other’s arsenals after 60 days.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty last April in Prague.

The U.S. Senate ratified New START December 22, after a contentious debate between its advocates and some Republican senators who had concerns about the treaty and sought to block it.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Obama said New START was needed to allow inspections to resume. "This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia’s. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases, so we will be able to trust, but verify," he said.

U.S. defense officials say neither country has conducted any inspections since the 1991 START One treaty expired in December, 2009.

In praising the ratification of New START in December, the president said approval of the treaty would strengthen the important relationship between the United States and Russia. "We will continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges, from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. And this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them," he said.

The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, ratified the treaty on January 26.