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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.