Signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START, "demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia - the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons - to pursue responsible global leadership," said President Obama.
President Barack Obama, left, and President Dimitry Medvedev sign the new START treaty in Prague. (Photo courtesy The Kremlin)
"Together, we are keeping our commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which must be the foundation of global non-proliferation," Obama said.
The new 10-year agreement replaces the START Treaty of 1991 which expired on December 4, 2009 and the 2002 Moscow Treaty on nuclear weapons terminates upon entry into force of the new START Treaty. The U.S. Senate and the Russian legislature must approve the Treaty before it can enter into force.
Prague was selected for the signing ceremony because it was there last April that President Obama first stated his vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
"While the new START treaty is an important step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey. As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts," President Obama said today. "And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons."
President Medvedev said, "The main thing is that there are no winners and losers. Rather, this is what they call a win-win situation [in English]. I think that accurately describes what we have accomplished. Both sides have won by improving their security, and this victory is also a victory for the global community."
"The new agreement reinforces global strategic stability and simultaneously facilitates the transition to a new, higher level in our relations, in relations with the United States of America," the Russian President said.
In strengthening their cooperation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States and Russia are putting more pressure on Iran to renounce any nuclear weapons ambitions.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev shake hands after signing the new START treaty. (Photo courtesy The Kremlin)
"Those nations that follow the rules will find greater security and opportunity. Those nations that refuse to meet their obligations will be isolated, and denied the opportunity that comes with international integration," said President Obama today. "That includes accountability for those that break the rules - otherwise the NPT is just words on a page."
"That is why the United States and Russia are part of a coalition of nations insisting that the Islamic Republic of Iran face consequences, because they have continually failed to meet their obligations," Obama warned. "We are working together at the UN Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran. And we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT, risk an arms race in a vital region, and threaten the credibility of the international community and our collective security."
President Medvedv, too, had a warning for Iran, which Russia has in the past supported in its civilian nuclear program.
"Unfortunately, Iran is not responding to a number of constructive proposals that have been made in this regard, and we cannot turn a blind eye to this. So I do not exclude the possibility that the Security Council will have to reconsider this matter," the Russian president said.
"Of course sanctions by themselves rarely lead to any concrete results, although sometimes they cannot be avoided. In any case, those sanctions should be smart, designed to help achieve specific non-proliferation objectives, rather than harm the Iranian people and create a humanitarian catastrophe," said Medvedev.
Briefing reporters in Prague, the Obama administration's senior director for Russian affairs Michael McFaul said President Obama agrees with the Russian president on that point.
The two countries "are in the process of beginning a negotiation about a sanctions resolution," said McFaul. He said both leaders want to use sanctions "as a tool to change Iranian behavior."
From left: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus and U.S. President Barack Obama share a toast during a luncheon at Prague Castle, April 8, 2010. (Photo by Pete Souza courtesy The White House)
The Russian leader said today that his country's actions would be "determined by the political and diplomatic precepts outlined by the Group of Six" international mediators - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.
The two presidents also agreed to expand their discussions on missile defense. This will include regular exchanges of information about their threat assessments, as well as the completion of a joint assessment of emerging ballistic missiles.
"As these assessments are completed," said President Obama, "I look forward to launching a serious dialogue about Russian-American cooperation on missile defense."
The two leaders also discussed the potential to expand their cooperation on economic growth, trade and investment, and technological innovation. These discussions will continue when President Medvedev visits the United States this summer.
After the signing ceremony, Presidents Obama and Medvedev attended a ceremonial lunch hosted by Czech President Vaclav Klaus.
The final event of the day was a dinner for Central and Eastern European heads of state and heads of government hosted by President Obama at the U.S. Ambassadors Residence. There were 11 leaders from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.
The President took this opportunity to have multilateral discussion with these 11 close allies of the United States and to discuss a range of issues from the global economy to European security.
On Friday morning, the President will attend a bilateral meeting with Czech President Klaus and Prime Minister Fischer, before returning to Washington.
New START Treaty limits on nuclear weapons:
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