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A New START

Russia and the United States are negotiating a new arms control treaty.

Pressing the “restart” button — that is how the Obama Administration, literally, initiated its policy toward Russia after the cool Bush and Putin years. Now, in an interview with Fox News, National Security Advisor Jim Jones suggests that the president might win another foreign policy success on one of the issues dear to him: nuclear proliferation.

“All of the dialogue is encouraging, they’re positive,” said Jones about the negotiations that are going on in Geneva, Switzerland.

Russia and the United States are working on an arms control deal to replace the existing START agreement that expires next Saturday. “We’re down to the last few paragraphs and sentences.”

Peace prize

That is good news for Obama, who hopes to have a new treaty signed by the time he heads for Oslo, Norway to collect his Nobel Peace Prize. Reducing nuclear weapons may be the subject of his acceptance speech.

The current START and SORT treaties limit the number of nuclear and conventional weapons that Russia and the United States may possess. Both countries still have thousands of nuclear warheads. The United States is estimated to have about 10,000 warheads of which 2,623 are operational. The Russian number is more ambiguous: it was said to have 4,237 warheads operational in 2007.

There is little doubt Russia has between 8,000 and 10,000 such weapons in storage.

For comparison, the world’s third nuclear power, France, has just 300 operational warheads.

Ambitious

The Geneva negotiations focus only on the operational warheads, but their goal is more ambitious than any agreement signed between the former Cold War rivals so far: cut their arsenals of operational warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 within the next seven years.

Should such an agreement come about, President Obama can boast an enormous step forward in the fight against nuclear proliferation.

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