Details Hamper Negotiators: Russia and the United States Will Return to START in the Coming Year by Petr

Iskenderov and Boris Kaymakov Vremya Novostey, 21 Dec 09, Moscow Russian and US presidents Dmitriy Medvedev and Barack Obama are postponing the signing of a new Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms [START] until 2010. This became clear after the Russian-American summit meeting in Copenhagen on 18 December, when the two presidents took part in work of the UN conference on global climate change problems. Both leaders were optimistic about prospects for signing a new START. Medvedev emphasized that "our positions are very close and practically all issues we were discussing in recent months have been closed." "Certain technical details remain that all the same need to be refined in such an important agreement," the Russian leader announced. Obama confirmed that the parties "achieved excellent progress in this area" and "are very close to reaching agreement." The US president noted especially that his Russian colleague "was a very effective partner in these talks." Statements voiced in Copenhagen removed the acuteness that had arisen suddenly last week in the question of concluding a new START. Sergey Lavrov, head of the RF MID [Foreign Ministry], declared on 17 December that "a slowdown in the position of American negotiators at Geneva" had been noticed in Moscow. Now experts of the two countries who were preparing the document are leaving for the Christmas holidays and will return to the talks in mid-January. Despite all efforts, Russia and the United States will enter 2010 without a new START. The validity of the previous one, signed in 1991, expired on 5 December. Judging from everything, a new document will be ready no earlier than the end of January 2010. Assistant to the Russian President Sergey Prikhodko, who accompanied Medvedev in Copenhagen, promised that refinement of details "at the expert level" will begin in January. According to him, "the presidents expressed confidence that work on the document will be concluded in the near future, in the very next work period." "Agreement is required only for technical details, but the date of the future signing is not being named especially so as not to place extra pressure on the delegations," Mr. Prikhodko emphasized. "Russia and the United States wished to prepare for signing a new START by 5 December, but the time for preparing the document was extremely tight from the very beginning," RAN [Russian Academy of Sciences] USA and Canada Institute Deputy Director Major-General Pavel Zolotarev told Vremya Novostey. He recalled that in July, when the new administration of President Obama and the Russian side made the decision to draw up the treaty, "actually only a half-year remained to prepare such a serious document." Analysts note that delegations of the two countries have to settle the last disagreements, which concern in particular the nature of mutual monitoring, the number of inspections, and principles for the exchange of telemetry. In addition, the main issue of the number of strategic delivery vehicles and nuclear warheads that Russia and the United States will be allowed to have must be agreed upon conclusively. Maj-Gen Zolotarev is sure that "a political decision of the two presidents obviously will be required on these issues." According to him, "figures for the reduction of delivery vehicles already have succeeded in being brought together to the maximum possible extent."

A Vremya Novostey expert sees one other reason why Russia and the United States have not managed for now to agree conclusively on the text of the new Treaty: "Issues may remain for the American negotiators connected with their concern over prospects of future ratification of START in Congress. They foresee certain difficulties here. As far as can be judged, certain points on which the American side is insisting are connected specifically with the strong opposition to Obama among those Congressmen dissatisfied as a whole with his policy of resetting Russian-American relations." Politically, however, Russia and the United States are doomed to sign a new strategic arms treaty. A UN Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which is held once every five years, will take place in May 2010, and the two leading nuclear powers would like very much to come to an agreement on their own arsenals by that time. So for Moscow and Washington the upcoming conference will be "a powerful incentive to sign a new START as early as possible," the Vremya Novostey source predicts.

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