China Perspective

US-Russia nuke treaty 'good for global stability'

By He Wei and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-28 08:14
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BEIJING - The newly approved nuclear arms reduction treaty between Moscow and Washington has limitations regarding arsenal reduction but has significant implications for US-Russian bilateral ties, Chinese experts said.

"It reflects the consensus reached between the world's two biggest arsenals and elevates mutual strategic trust," said Guo Xiaobing, an arms control specialist at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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Russia's parliament approved the first nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States in nearly a decade on Wednesday, voting to ratify the pact at the center of improved ties between the former Cold War foes.

The upper chamber of the Russian parliament approved the new START treaty with unanimous support from all 137 members who attended the meeting and voted.

The new treaty, signed by US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in April 2010, is to replace the 1991 START I that expired in 2009.

The pact requires the US and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals to levels slightly lower than today's - down to 1,550 warheads each, from between 1,700 and 2,200 now - within seven years and to immediately renew mutual inspections.

It also requires both countries to reduce the number of their strategic missiles to 800 units.

"While the disarmament deal has little impact on the regional situation, the renewed treaty has political implications for bilateral ties," Guo said.

The treaty, a key foreign policy goal of the Obama administration, was approved in the US late last month.

It is also a milestone in the presidency of Medvedev, who has embraced Obama's campaign to improve ties, which underwent a chill during Moscow's conflict with Georgia in 2008.

Despite some lingering disputes on the treaty such as missile defense, Xing Guangcheng, an expert on Russian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is positive that it will be implemented smoothly.

"Even during Cold War period, the old START treaty was able to live up to its mission. So it is safe to say that the two countries are now poised to abide by the rules and the verification criteria in the deal," he said.

But the pact has its limitations regarding arsenal reduction, experts noted.

The treaty only set out to cut the number of deployed nuclear warheads, but failed to limit the amount in stockpiles, said Guo.

And the pact did not broach the issue of tactical nuclear weapons or the deployment of conventional weapons. Nor did it deal with the building of missile defense systems, Guo said.

As for the treaty's impact on Beijing, Xing said China welcomes such moves as they are instrumental in restoring strategic stability worldwide.

But given the limitations of the new treaty, it is premature to forecast substantial nuclear disarmament in the short term, he added.