US President Barack Obama reached key agreements with Russia during his visit to Moscow Monday, including a framework for nuclear arms reductions and an OK for US overflights to Afghanistan.
In a joint press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the two presidents said that they had reached an agreement on a continuation of a treaty to significantly reduce both countries' nuclear arsenals.
Both countries are to cut down their nuclear warheads to a range of 1,500 to 1,675 in seven years time, from a current level of around 2,000 in the United States and 3,000 in Russia.
They also agreed to cut down on the number of strategic delivery systems – units carrying nuclear weapons, including missiles and aircraft – to a range of 500-1,100.
Obama said he hoped to see the countries reduce their arsenals “by as much as a third”.
Today’s agreement will guide continuing negotiations to reach a legally binding treaty by the end of the year in order to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START-1, which expires in December.
The two countries also officially signed a deal allowing US military flights to Afghanistan through Russian airspace. The deal will save the US “both time and money”, according to Obama.
Russia will allow the US to make 4,500 military flights a year through its territory, greatly easing supply-line pressures on the US war in Afghanistan. It will also cut US costs by up to $133 million a year.
President Obama spoke in his now-expected candid manner, blaming an entrenched "bureaucracy" for preventing better relations between the two countries.
In order to increase cooperation and find a solution to disagreements over the proposed US missile-defence shield in Eastern Europe, Obama said the two countries would start a joint review on missile defence.
Even as differences remain on the subject of the shield, Medvedev said he saw “clear progress” in talks on the subject, unlike with former President Bush’s administration.
The two countries also agreed to a bilateral presidential commission that would hold "working groups" on various issues including nuclear energy and security, terrorism, environment, technology, health and economic cooperation.
Obama raised the concern of a rising pace of nuclear proliferation, citing North Korea and Iran as major concerns. But these challenges remained unanswered, with no conclusive declarations on the issues.
This is the first day of a two-day visit to Russia. Obama will have a working breakfast with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, widely considered to be the real power-broker in Russia.
In response to a question about the relation between Medvedev and Putin, Obama said that his counterpart and president in Russia was Medvedev, but that both men were working “very effectively” together.