Why U.S.-Russia Nuke Deal Matters

Obama's biggest foreign policy achievement?

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The United States and Russia appear to be moving forward on the latest iteration of START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which guides a reduction in the nuclear arsenal of both nations. First signed in 1991 at the end of the Cold War, START expired in December. Diplomats from the two countries have agreed on the pact, but it now must be ratified by their respective legislatures and signed by Presidents Medvedev and Obama. Here's what was accomplished, what wasn't, and what remains to be done.

  • Furthers Obama's Nuke-Free Goal  The Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan writes, "The pact appeared to represent President Obama's first victory in his ambitious agenda to move toward a nuclear-free world. [...] Perhaps more important for Obama, the accord comes shortly before a crucial meeting of signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact that contained the spread of nuclear weapons for decades. The administration is hoping to persuade treaty members to impose stiffer punishments on nations that are accused of violating the pact."
  • Obama's Greatest Foreign Policy Triumph?  The New York Times' Peter Baker thinks so. "The new treaty represents perhaps the most concrete foreign policy achievement for Mr. Obama since he took office 14 months ago and the most significant result of his effort to 'reset' the troubled relationship with Russia. The administration wants to use it to build momentum for an international nuclear summit meeting in Washington just days after the signing ceremony and a more ambitious round of arms cuts later in his term."
  • Improving U.S.-Russia Ties  Global Security's Nikolas Gvosdev says the moves "suggest that both sides saw the U.S. -Russia relationship deteriorating even further without some concrete measure of success." He writes, "For its part, the lifting of U.S. sanctions that had been imposed against the Russian aerospace firm Glavkosmos (initially imposed in 1998 for its previous dealings with Iran) was also a symbolic gesture on Washington's part of wanting to improve ties."
  • Excludes Missile Defense   Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin quotes Sen. Dick Lugar, who helped draft the treaty, "Missile defense will not be part of the treaty, but in the preamble both parties will state their positions and there will be a mention of offense and defense and the importance of those." Rogin explains, "Russia had been stalling the last stage of the negotiations over the issue, holding fast to its position that missile defense must be included in some way in the new treaty. The U.S. side has insisted the treaty be confined only to offensive systems."
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