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New START matters

18 December 2010 News

By the end of 2009 the START treaty between the United States and Russia expired. For thefirst time in decades there are no mutual inspections and monitoring between the United Statesand Russia in the nuclear field. For more than a year, the two largest stockpiles of nuclearweapons have been without the finely calibrated system of trust and verification, which theoriginal START treaty from 1991 ensured.

On 8 April, the US and Russia signed the New START treaty, which represents a significantstep forward in the nuclear commitments of both countries. The treaty should reduce thenumbers of strategic weapons up to a level of 1550. At the same time the treaty should restarta verification scheme which has not been in force since the expiration of START. The signingof New START was recognized throughout the world as a major achievement that re-energizedthe global arms control and disarmament debate. It signaled hope that a step had been taken onthe long road towards a world without nuclear weapons. The commitments by Russia and theUnited States contributed to the successful outcome of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)-review conference earlier this year in New York and led to the adoption of an action plan on all three pillars of the NPT regime, i.e. non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful uses ofnuclear energy.

However, New START has not yet been ratified and implemented.The European Union countries represent a variety of historic backgrounds. Most significantly,the 27 Member States include countries from both sides of the former Iron Curtain, which wastorn down some 20 years ago as the Cold War came to an end. Our countries now belong tothe same community of values and we all share the same vision of a safe and secureenvironment. Ratification and implementation of New START would be a major contributionto enhancing the goals of peace, security and disarmament. Reintroducing legally binding limitations on the numbers of nuclear warheads and an effective verification regime would make a positive contribution both to European security and the global non-proliferation regime. At present there are no legal requirements either on reductions or on verification. The existence of considerable numbers of Russian and US nuclear weapons and their means of delivery not under a regime of mutual control does in our view make Europe less safe.

The United States and Russia, which possess 95 % of the global stockpile of nuclear weapons,are faced with an historic opportunity. Both countries can turn their international commitments into reality, reduce the numbers of deployed strategic warheads and their delivery systems, and establish a verification system to the benefit of both sides. We recognize that New START is a bilateral agreement between the US and Russia. However, the treaty will have an impact far beyond the relation between the United States and Russia.

The countries of the European Union have a shared interest to strengthen our joint efforts inpromoting disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. The ratification of New STARTwill strengthen the international disarmament regime and bolster wider efforts going forward to tackle countries who are in breach of their NPT commitments. It will therefore have a positive impact on American, European and wider international security. Its impact on internationalsecurity goes far beyond Europe – it is global. That is why we all share an interest to see thenew treaty ratified and implemented.

There is another aspect of New START which is often overlooked.

The EU has a long-standing strategic relationship with the US and today it regards Russia as astrategic partner as well. The recent NATO-summit in Lisbon turned out to be a historic event in Euro-Atlantic relations. The summit could very well herald the beginning of a newrelationship between Russia, the United States and Europe based on mutual confidence, transparency and predictability. Our cooperation should contribute to creating a common spaceof peace, prosperity, stability and security.

We believe that this broader, positive momentum in our relations should not be wasted. We should seize the opportunity and build on this momentum in order to create a safer world.Ratification of New START would be an important step towards this goal.

We urge the United States and Russia in their deliberations to be guided by these overriding objectives. In this we – as European Foreign Ministers – give our full support to the efforts of the Governments of the United States and Russia. We urge a swift ratification and implementation of the New START treaty.

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