New START: US, Russia in N-arms reduction pact

New START is a cornerstone of Obama`s efforts to "reset" US ties with Russia.

Munich (Germany): US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton launched a landmark nuclear arms reduction
pact with Russia today, a showpiece of Washington`s "reset" of
ties with its former Cold War enemy.

The new START nuclear arms reduction treaty officially
came into force when Clinton and Russian counterpart Sergei
Lavrov exchanged ratification documents at a security
conference in the German city of Munich.

"Today we exchange the instruments of ratification for a
treaty that lessens the nuclear danger facing the Russian and
American people and the world," Clinton said.

The chief US diplomat hailed the pact as another example
of "clear-eyed" cooperation between the two military powers,
"part of a journey we have been taking for more than 60

Lavrov told the Munich conference that the agreement
would "enhance international stability."

US Vice President Joe Biden used the same gathering of
top defence officials in 2009 to state Washington`s desire to
press the "reset" button in relations with Russia, which had
cooled under the presidency of George W. Bush.

"When it comes to the button that has worried us the most
over the years -- the one that would unleash nuclear
destruction -- today we take another step to ensure that it
will never be pushed," Clinton said.

The US administration has touted the new Strategic Arms
Reduction Treaty as a key element in improving ties with
Moscow as well as a major step in US President Barack Obama`s
vision of a world free of atomic weapons.

The pact slashes existing warhead ceilings by 30 percent
over the next 10 years and limits each side to 700 deployed
long-range missiles and heavy bombers.

The original 1991 pact expired at the end of 2009 amid
stark differences over how the two sides planned to proceed.

Many analysts see the new round of cuts as largely
symbolic, however, because the chances of these heavy
long-range weapons being used today are negligible.

But the pact provides an important starting point for far
more pertinent discussions concerning smaller -- but
potentially more dangerous -- nuclear weapons and other
high-tech arms.

The United States and Russia possess 90 per cent of the
world`s nuclear weapons.

Clinton said she would discuss "further arms control
issues" with Lavrov, including on stocks of short- and
medium-range missiles and non-deployed nuclear weapons.

The new START treaty will restore vital weapons
verifications procedures and require the two sides to try to
find a compromise over their diverging views on NATO`s
decision to erect a missile shield in Europe.


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