PRAGUE, Apr 8 – US President Barack Obama called the new nuclear disarmament treaty he signed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday a "historic" event that will boost security around the world.
Obama said that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons "will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime, and make the United States, and the world, safer and more secure."
He added: "Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation, and for US-Russia relations."
Under the new treaty, the United States and Russia will be allowed a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, about 30 percent lower than a limit set in the previous major disarmament deal from 2002.
"Nuclear weapons are not simply an issue for the United States and Russia," said Obama. "They threaten the common security of all nations. A nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist is a danger to people everywhere — from Moscow to New York; from the cities of Europe to South Asia."
The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty must be approved by the US Senate and Russia\’s parliament to replace the 1991 START which expired last December.
Obama said he hoped for ratification by the US Congress later this year, but he may find it hard to raise the required two-thirds support he needs from the Senate.
Republican senators have said they would not back any deal that harms US missile defence systems.
Russia has said it could back out of the new treaty if it feels threatened by the US missile defence plan for Europe. The Kremlin reaffirmed Thursday that the treaty only has "life" if the United States limits the defence shield.
Obama said he was looking forward to "launching a serious dialogue about Russian-American cooperation on missile defence" — another step forward in his efforts to improve ties with the former Cold War foe.
The US president praised progress made in improving US-Russia relations. "Together, we have stopped the drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation," he said.
But later on Thursday, Obama will meet 11 leaders from eastern and central Europe whose countries have fretted about eroding support from Washington as the Obama administration pursues closer ties with Russia.
This feeling was particularly strong in the Czech Republic — the host to the signature — where right-wingers in particular felt betrayed by the Obama administration\’s decision last September to scrap a plan to build a radar base in the country while pushing on with a missile shield in neighbouring Poland.