WASHINGTON (CN) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Barack Obama, in his first trip to Russia as president, signed a nuclear “joint understanding” Monday that sets out the most stringent nuclear arms reductions ever agreed between the two countries.
“These numbers reflect a new level of reductions of strategic offensive arms and delivery vehicles that will be lower than those in any existing arms control agreements,” the White House said in a released statement.
The two countries combined hold 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
The presidents also agreed to broader cooperation and new supply routs through Russia for troops in Afghanistan.
The arms agreement comes as both countries seek to renegotiate the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before it expires Dec. 5. The treaty was adopted after the Cold War and significantly reduced U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
Obama has called for a world without nuclear weapons.
During a hearing two weeks ago in the House, Republicans called talk of eliminating nuclear weapons “nonsense” and expressed concern that the United States might forfeit plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe as it negotiates nuclear non-proliferation. Democrats and members of an expert panel said nuclear weapons are outdated, and possessing them makes the country less safe.
There is still no replacement treaty, but the two presidents signed a joint understanding to guide the remainder of the negotiations. Both countries committed to reducing the number of nuclear warheads to between 1500 and 1675, below the current cap of 2,200. Also, the maximum number of launchers for such missiles will be between 500 and 1,100, fewer than the current maximum of 1,600.
“I am confident that the treaty envisioned by this Joint Understanding will ultimately win Senate approval and enter into force,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry said, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Russia and the United States also struck an agreement that will allow the United States to transport military personnel and equipment through Russia to supply the war in Afghanistan. The White House released a statement that said the new routs will save $133 million in fuel and maintenance costs.
A new bilateral commission will also be developed to expand cooperation on nuclear security, space, arms control, fighting terrorism, climate change and cultural exchange among other things.
“We also came to the conclusion that Russian-American relations and the level achieved today does not correspond to their potential, to the other possibilities of our countries,” Medvedev said through a translator while expressing his hopes for a stronger relationship.