President Barack Obama and Russian Pres. Dmitry Medvedev finally reached an agreement regarding arms control last Thursday. The two world powers put aside their differences over the issue and began a new era of friendly negotiations. The New START pact was signed in the luxurious Prague Castle, and was filled with signs of mutual agreement and even signs of a growing personal relationship between the two presidents.
The signing culminates a frustrating struggle to reach a new agreement, including a visit made by Medvedev to Washington, D.C., and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visiting Moscow two weeks ago. The meeting held a rather amicable tone, despite other factors of the recent tenuous relationship between the two countries, such as Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, which were not brought up at the meeting.
The two sides were only in accord with one another, though, on Thursday. Medvedev referred to the treaty as a “historic event,” and said, “What matters most is that this is a win-win situation. No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe that this is a typical feature of our cooperation.” Medvedev also expressed support for the U.S. on imposing new restrictions on Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear efforts, saying that the two sides “cannot turn a blind eye to this.”
Obama agreed with his Russian counterpart, saying, “Together, we’ve stopped that drift, and prove the benefits of cooperation. Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations.”
Not everything was brought to the public eye, though. Medvedev said that limits had been outlined, but would not go into further details regarding the private conversations between the two presidents. Obama and Medvedev also strayed away from speaking about the missile defense system in Europe proposed by Obama, despite Russian threats of withdrawing from the treaty if the system did not reach their sanctions.
Under the proposed treaty, each side would be barred from expanding their arsenals by 1,500 warheads and 700 launchers. Neither side would actually have to deplete their current stockpiles by large amounts, though. This treaty could act as a building block for even further barrings of nuclear proliferation in the near future.
The most significant thing to take away from the meeting, though, would be the rare friendly negotiation that occurred between the two super-powers. Obama referred to the Russian president as a “friend and partner” and credited Medvedev with the allowance of such easy negotiations. “Without his personal efforts and strong leadership, we would not be here today,” said Obama. Medvedev responded by saying the two have “a very good personal chemistry.”
Other European countries expressed their disconcertedness over the whole agreement, though, including condescending commentary from Polish and Czech media outlets. On the cover of a popular Czech weekly newspaper, Obama was shown kissing former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, with the caption “Dangerous kisses with Moscow.” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed his feelings on the matter, and said the pact “may affect the security of countries in the region,” and that he had received “assurances on the part of the United States.”