The United States and Russia signed a landmark disarmament treaty on Thursday they hope will herald better bilateral ties and raise pressure on countries seeking nuclear arms to renounce such ambitions.
Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the pact at the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic after talks that covered nuclear security, Iran’s atomic programme and an uprising in the strategic central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.
The agreement — which replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired in December — will cut strategic nuclear arsenal deployed by the former Cold War foes by 30 per cent within seven years but leave each with enough to destroy the other.
Both nuclear powers needed to show they were serious about reducing their vast stocks to lend weight to efforts to curb the atomic ambitions of countries like Iran and North Korea.
White House officials told reporters on the flight to Prague that tougher UN sanctions against Iran’s disputed nuclear programme would be prominent in Obama’s talks with Medvedev, though no specific announcements are expected.
"The Russians are already committed to holding Iran accountable through the multilateral sanctions regime," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
The situation in Kyrgyzstan, where opposition protesters forced out President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Wednesday, thrust its way on to the agenda as both Washington and Moscow have military bases there.
Medvedev said the treaty could play a considerable role in shaping disarmament in the future.
"It fully reflects the interests of the US and Russia. There are no losers," he added.