Obama, Medvedev Hold Nuclear Arms Reduction Talks in Copenhagen

When Pres. Obama and Pres. Medvedev meet, their agenda will reach beyond carbon emissions and climate change negotiations, however.They are expected to discuss ongoing negotiations on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty. US and Russian negotiations have been meeting in Geneva, holding talks described as “intense”, in the interests of mutual nuclear disarmament. The plan will be a second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (StART 2), aimed at moving the world closer to Pres. Obama’s vision of “a world without nuclear weapons”.

Medvedev has shown himself to be a worthy ally in Obama’s disarmament and non-proliferation agenda, even voting with the United States against Iran, on the question of its nuclear pursuits. According to the Times of London:

The new version of Start is to require each side to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads to roughly 1600, down from 2200, according to senior American officials. It is also to force each side to reduce its strategic bombers and land and sea-based missiles to below 800, down from the old limit of 1600.

But reports say that after the new pact is signed the Presidents plan to send negotiators back to the table next year to pursue a far more ambitious agreement, tackling categories of nuclear weapons never before subject to international limits.

Obama seems to have persuaded Russia’s president that aggressive nuclear arms reduction is in the mutual security interests of the former Cold War rivals, and of the wider world. The degree to which Medvedev has signed on to Obama’s denuclearization agenda has helped move the world significantly closer to a credible counter-proliferation framework, and has also motivated a call for improvements to Russia’s economy and democratic processes.

Pres. Obama has been adamant that his quest for a world free of nuclear weapons is a long-term goal, with the short-term strategy being to ensure steep reductions in overall numbers of extant weapons, thus reducing greatly the risk of proliferation. Among the warheads to be discussed in ongoing negotiations are old bombs not deployed but which are being kept in locations across Europe, relics of the Cold War with no real military use today.

The US is hoping the nuclear negotiations will help forge a closer diplomatic relationship between the US and the Russian Federation, and that Washington may be able to rely on Moscow to support its positions on other prickly international issues, such as how to respond to Iran’s ongoing development of nuclear technology. In November, Russia and China both sided with the US  and European powers in denouncing Iran for its circumvention of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mandates and supervision.

As Australia’s The Age reported at the time:

The US remains ready ”to engage Iran to work towards a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dilemma it has created for itself, if only Iran would choose such a course,” ambassador Davies said.

His Iranian counterparts, while condemning the resolution, ruled out the possibility of withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and barring inspectors from its nuclear facilities.

The development of winning support from Russia and China, as well as Iran’s willingness to continue down the path of negotiated diplomatic supervision of its activities, suggest the complicated diplomatic dance is, so far, working to achieve the basic goal of privileging non-proliferation and ensuring a united international front against proliferation efforts. While Iran, North Korea, and the Pakistani Taliban remain serious proliferation concerns, cohesion among the great nuclear powers could be the diplomatic achievement of this decade, and an important basis on which to build international peace and security.

The near full-time negotiations that have been taking place in Geneva have been reported to have slowed down in recent days. Russian officials have blamed the US for the slowdown, but both sides say a deal is “close”. US president Barack Obama said Friday that “We’ve been making excellent progress. We are quite close to an agreement, and I’m confident it will be completed in a timely fashion”, while Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said “Our positions are very close” and that only “technical details” remained to be agreed.

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