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START Negotiators Voice Optimism After First Meeting

(Apr. 24) -U.S.-Russian negotiations began today for a treaty that could further limit how many nuclear warheads are allowed on delivery vehicles, like the Minuteman 3 ICBM (U.S. Air Force photo). (Apr. 24) -U.S.-Russian negotiations began today for a treaty that could further limit how many nuclear warheads are allowed on delivery vehicles, like the Minuteman 3 ICBM (U.S. Air Force photo).

Envoys from Russia and the United States said they had a "very productive" first session today in the effort to reach a new agreement on reducing the size of the two nations' nuclear arsenals, Reuters reported (see GSN, April 23).

The countries agreed this month to begin negotiations on a pact to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December.

Preliminary talks "got off to a fast start," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said following her meeting in Rome with Russian Foreign Ministry security and disarmament chief Anatoly Antonov.

The sides hoped make substantial progress toward an agreement by the time Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev meet in Moscow this summer. "On the basis of this very productive meeting today, I would say that we will have a good report for them in July," Gottemoeller said.

Antonov vowed that Moscow would do its "utmost" to complete a draft agreement this year. Gottemoeller earlier this month said it would be difficult to keep to the schedule imposed by the looming START expiration.

"We are sure, we are sure that this treaty, new treaty, will help to improve relations between (the) United States and (the) Russian Federation," Antonov said. "We are sure that this treaty could promote confidence, predictability in the world. And I hope that it will be a very impressive impulse to international movement regarding getting rid (of the world's) nuclear weapon(s)."

The next round of negotiations is set for May in the United States (Phil Stewart, Reuters/New York Times, April 24).

Obama and Medvedev agreed that a new treaty would ideally reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads on each side below the 1,700-2,200 level authorized under the 2002 Moscow Treaty, the London Guardian reported.

Some have said the new treaty should allow each side to maintain no more than 1,500 warheads on delivery vehicles such as missiles and bombers. Still, the deal might not address the thousands of stored weapons that each nation is believed to possess.

"The two sides clearly want a result and it's likely they will produce a follow-on treaty to START. The two countries' positions are not that far apart on key issues." Arms Control Association head Daryl Kimball said.

Still, "there may not be breathtaking reductions in the arsenals," he cautioned.

The United States must complete a review of its strategic posture before it could consider cutting its deployed arsenal to fewer than 1,500 warheads, according to the Guardian (Julian Borger, London Guardian, April 23).

The Defense Department said yesterday it has begun work on its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and its Quadrennial Defense Review.

"The NPR will be conducted in consultation with the Departments of Energy and State. The purpose of the NPR is to establish U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, strategy, and posture for the next five to 10 years and to provide a basis for the negotiation of a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)," according to the Pentagon (U.S. Defense Department release, April 23).

The nuclear review is likely to recommend sustaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile for as long as another decade, Pentagon officials told the Associated Press yesterday. The report would be aimed at deterring nuclear proliferation and threats for the foreseeable future rather than furthering Obama's aspiration of global nuclear disarmament, the officials said (Anne Gearan, Associated Press/Google News, April 23).

The review is likely to address proliferation threats posed by Iran and North Korea as well as bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force, Kyodo News reported (Kyodo News/Breitbart.com, April 24).

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