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It looks like at long last the U.S. and Russia have come to an agreement on a new treaty that will see both sides reduce their nuclear arsenals by a quarter. Neither side has issued an official statement, but strategic leaks to Russian and U.S. press have made it clear that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are planning one last telephone call before announcing the move. The treaty is expected to be signed in Prague in April.
It's been a rough road. The Obama administration thought the new agreement would be signed by December, when the Soviet-era START treaty governing nuclear arsenals expired. Instead, talks dragged on and on, with near daily promises over the last four months that a deal was "close."
The Obama administration had put forward the agreement as an easy first step to "resetting" its relations with Russia. Instead, it turned into a nagging symbol of just how difficult relations with Russia would be. The administration's presentation of a gaudy "reset button," complete with mistranslated Russian, began to look incredibly naive.
Now, hot on the heels of its success in passing health care reform, the administration can finally hold up a concrete example that U.S.-Russian relations are on the mend. Whether the treaty will, as Obama officials hope, spawn further cooperation (on Iran, for example) is another story.
The treaty will require Moscow and Washington to reduce from 2,200 to 1,600 the number of strategic nuclear warheads they have deployed. It is believed Obama hopes that further negotiations will cut that number down to as little as 1,000.
It might be a good start, both for U.S.-Russian relations and Obama's dream of a nuclear-free planet. But, for now, it's just a start.