US-Russia Report on Scrapping Nuclear Weapons to be Unveiled

Remains of a destroyed nuclear rocket site in a remote area some 640 miles from Moscow in 1992. The United States said Tuesday it has made progress in its negotiations with Russia toward forging a successor to a Cold War-era treaty to cut nuclear weapons arsenals.(AFP/EPA/File)

US-Russia Report on Scrapping Nuclear Weapons to be Unveiled

A three-step process for the phased elimination of nuclear weapons will be unveiled by a powerful group of former policy makers in Washington tomorrow.

The report by the Global Zero Commission, formed in response to Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev's pledge earlier this year to rid the world of nuclear weapons, is released ahead of a summit in Moscow between the two leaders next weekend.

The US-Russia summit, Obama's first as US president, is expected to see a bilateral agreement cutting nuclear stockpiles through a pact to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start-1), which expires this year. A new treaty is seen as crucial to head off a new nuclear arms race drawing in other countries.

The US and Russia possess 95% of the world's strategic nuclear warheads - about 5,000 each. Next weekend could see agreement to cut the number to 1,500 each.

Ahead of the summit, Nato and Russian foreign ministers met in Corfu in Greece yesterday for the first time in more than a year. The meeting of the Nato-Russia Council, whose work was frozen last year in western protest at Russia's invasion and partition of Georgia, was the first under a new American administration that has promised to "press the reset button" in relations with the Kremlin.

The two sides agreed to disagree over Georgia, while resuming military co-operation and seeking deals on Afghanistan and Iran.

A new nuclear disarmament treaty will be among five urgent issues discussed by Obama and Medvedev next weekend.

Two of the others - Iran and the deployment by the US of nuclear weapons in Poland - are related to the Global Zero initiative.

The three-step disarmament process will be outlined in Washington DC by the 100 Global Zero commissioners including Richard Burt, the former chief US negotiator for Start-1 and a former ambassador to Germany, and Igor Yurgens, a senior adviser to Medvedev.

The Global Zero report warns: "The world is nearing a proliferation tipping point when nuclear weapons spread beyond the capacity of any effort to rein them in and the chances increase that they will be used by a country in conflict or by accident, or by a terrorist group."

Nine states have admitted they have nuclear weapons, but there are fears that if Iran presses ahead with its nuclear ambitions, it will set off a damaging chain reaction with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt following suit.

Key elements of the commission's plan include the negotiation of a US-Russia accord for bilateral deep reductions going far beyond expected commitments, the negotiation of a multilateral global zero accord for the phased reduction of all nuclear arsenals, and the establishment of a comprehensive system of safeguards on the use of nuclear energy.

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