A panel of arms experts critical of the Obama administration claimed Wednesday that Russia bested the United States in a new treaty designed to reduce the two countries' arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month signed the historic "New START" treaty, the first major nuclear weapons reduction accord in nearly two decades.
The agreement aims to reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads in each arsenal to 1,500 over seven years, about a third less than the 2,200 currently permitted.
Obama and his advisers consider the treaty a major step toward the president's goal of a nuclear-free world. The pact, which Obama has not yet submitted to the Senate for ratification, would help reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy.
Speaking at the Nixon Center, James R. Schlesinger, secretary of defense in the Nixon and Ford administrations, said the United States made substantial concessions to the Russians to seal the deal.
He said he would support ratification only if the Senate provides for new U.S. weapons not prohibited by the treaty.
Along those lines, Stephen Rademaker, assistant secretary of state for arms control in President George W. Bush's administration, said it was likely the treaty would be approved. But he said, he hoped senators would "ask questions" first about Russian development of new weapons.
"The treaty obligates the U.S. to reduce (its arsenal). The Russians don't have to do anything. They are there already," Rademaker said, referring to the treaty's lowered ceiling of 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads within seven years.
"Every hard issue in the treaty is favorable to the Russians," he said.
The agreement does not require cuts in short-range or tactical nuclear weapons, which are significant to Russia's overall military posture, said Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center.
"While the treaty has addressed Russian concerns about U.S. missile defenses, there are no references in the treaty to major U.S. concerns about many thousands of Russian tactical weapons, particularly in Europe," Simes said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has directed U.S. negotiators to begin talks on such cuts.
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