WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet this Thursday in Prague to sign a nuclear arms treaty, a move Obama said will “reset” the relationship between the two countries. The treaty will be the first major pact between the two nuclear powers in nearly two decades and the biggest foreign policy accomplishment for the Obama administration to date.
“With this agreement, the United States and Russia — the two largest nuclear powers in the world — also send a clear signal that we intend to lead,” Obama said in a statement.
The treaty, called the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START Treaty, is a follow-up to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by President George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. The 1991 treaty expired in December 2009.
The new pact calls for the United States and Russia to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear warheads from 2,200 to 1,550 over the next seven years, a 30 percent reduction from current stores. The treaty also limits the number of long-range missiles held by each country.
Together, the United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
The new treaty does not contain a clause limiting missile defense systems, which the United States fought to exclude from the agreement.
Obama and Menvedev completed negotiations on the treaty on March 26.
Once signed, the treaty must be approved in the Senate by a two-thirds vote, or 67 votes.
Obama hopes the treaty will help rally support of world leaders for nuclear nonproliferation going into next week’s Nuclear Summit, slated for April 12 and 13. Leaders from more than 40 countries will descend on Washington to discuss nuclear security. Menvedev will be in attendance.
Obama has stated that his goal for the summit is to secure the world’s nuclear materials in the next four years.
The Obama administration said it will release its nuclear posture review within the next few days. Obama said the review “will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”
On March 5, the 40th anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Obama stated, “The world cannot afford additional proliferation or regional arms races.”
Obama has stated that he wants to see the complete eradication of nuclear arms worldwide, a goal he doesn’t expect to achieve in his lifetime.