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US and Russia in Talks to Slash Nuclear Arsenals

Leila Rafei

WASHINGTON - The United States and Russia will enter into negotiations to cut each nation's stockpile of
nuclear weapons by as much as 80 percent over the next year.

"We are going to re-engage Russia in a more
traditional, legally binding arms reduction process," said an Obama
administration official quoted by the Times of London
this week. "Nobody would be surprised if the number [of nuclear weapons
held by each country] reduced to the 1,000 mark for the post-START

The talks with Moscow will reopen the 1991 U.S.-Soviet
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in December. "Under that pact, the two countries have cut their respective
stockpiles from roughly 10,000 to 5,000," states the Times of London, adding that the negotiations sought by U.S. President Barack Obama are likely to be "the most ambitious arms reduction talks with
Russia for a generation."

"A world without nuclear weapons is profoundly in America's interest
and the world's interest," Obama has said. 

Russia has responded positively to the proposed talks. "We
welcome the statements from the new Obama administration that they are
ready to enter into talks and complete within a year, in this very
confined timeframe, the signing of a new Russian-U.S. treaty on the
limitation of strategic attack weapons," said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, according to a second report from the Times of London

Although the negotiations could be "a game changer," there still exist
some 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world -- the majority of which are
controlled by the United States or Russia, says the California-based
advocacy group Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Nonetheless, NAPF heralded the initiative as "remarkable progress
toward disarmament," noting that the goal of reducing each nation's
nuclear arsenal to 1,000 "is exactly what the Nuclear Age Peace
Foundation (NAPF) calls for in its 'First Hundred Days -- A Nuclear Disarmament Agenda for President Obama.'"

NAPF is also encouraging people to send Obama a message of support for the U.S.-Russia negotiations to drastically cut both nations' stockpiles.

Any agreement between the United States and Russia would likely pressure other countries with nuclear weapons -- notably Britain, which has 160 warheads -- to downsize their repositories, says the Times of London.

Obama believes arms-reduction negotiations between the United States and
Russia are critical to "persuade countries such as Iran," which launched its first satellite into space this week, "not to develop the Bomb," the paper added.

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