The US and Russia on Saturday formally inaugurated the New START treaty [materials, PDF; JURIST news archive], an agreement intended to reduce nuclear arms in both countries. At the security conference in Munich, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official profile, Russian] exchanged documents that finalized two years of negotiations aimed at improving relations between the two nations and marked the entering into force [Reuters report] of the treaty. The nuclear disarmament treaty calls for each country to reduce its nuclear arsenal by about 30 percent and allows each nation to have 1,550 warheads as opposed to the 2,200 allowed under the old Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [materials], which expired in December 2009.
In January, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev [Guardian profile; JURIST news archive] signed into law a bill that ratified the New START treaty. The Russian Federation Council voted to ratify the treaty [JURIST report] earlier that month. Russia's lower house originally approved the treaty [JURIST report] in December. Earlier that month, the US Senate voted 71-26 [JURIST report] to ratify the treaty. US President Barack Obama and Medvedev signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague in April. The agreement, reached [JURIST report] last 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].