Medvedev signs law ratifying Russia-U.S. arms pact

Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:57pm GMT

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev gave Russia's final approval to the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States on Friday and suggested the former Cold War foes would put the pact into force next week.

"Today I signed the ratification document relating to the strategic offensive weapons treaty," Medvedev told his presidential Security Council. "This is an important event for our entire country."

New START, signed by Medvedev and President Barack Obama last April after a year of tough negotiations, is the first Russian-U.S. nuclear arms pact in almost a decade and a crucial element in a "reset" that has improved long-strained ties.

It will commit the nations with 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons to ceilings of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads in seven years, up to 30 percent lower than in the 2002 Moscow treaty.

It will limit each side to 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers and establish verification rules, absent since the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) expired in 2009, enabling them to keep tabs on each other's arsenals.

The U.S. Senate approved ratification last month in a victory for Obama, and Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament gave its final approval in a unanimous upper house vote on Wednesday.

Medvedev said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would likely exchange documents starting the treaty's 10-year term in force at an upcoming meeting.

That suggested it could take place at an annual security conference being held in Munich, Germany on February 4-6. The ITAR-Tass news agency cited a Russian diplomatic source as saying the ceremony was expected to be held on February 5.   Continued...

<p>Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (C) chairs a meeting on economic issues at the presidential residence Gorki outside Moscow January 28, 2011. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin</p>
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