[JURIST] US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profiles] on Thursday signed the so-called New START treaty [text, PDF; BBC backgrounder], pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol [text, PDF], both countries would only be allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted. The treaty would also re-establish mechanisms to allow each party to inspect the other's nuclear arsenal. Speaking at a joint press conference after signing the treaty, Obama said [transcript] that "[w]hile the New START treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey," reiterating his vision of a world without nuclear arms. Medvedev praised the treaty [transcript, in Russian; video, in Russian] as "a very important step to build trust and understanding between our two countries." The treaty must be ratified by both countries before entering into force.
The treaty agreement, reached [JURIST report] in February, is the first nuclear agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years. The US State Department began negotiating [JURIST report] the treaty with Russia in 2009. Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, whose nuclear arsenals comprise 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, languished during the Bush administration. The treaty is considered a key part of easing tensions between the two countries, which reached a high point after the 2008 Georgia conflict [BBC backgrounder].