Obama, Medvedev's remarks at pact signing

April 8, 2010 at 2:23 PM
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PRAGUE, Czech Republic, April 8 (UPI) -- Following are remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the arms reduction treaty signing in Prague, Czech Republic.

The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed Thursday.

President Obama: Good afternoon, everyone. I am honored to be back here in the Czech Republic with President Medvedev and our Czech hosts to mark this historic completion of the New START treaty.

Let me begin by saying how happy I am to be back in the beautiful city of Prague. The Czech Republic, of course, is a close friend and ally of the United States, and I have great admiration and affection for the Czech people. Their bonds with the American people are deep and enduring, and Czechs have made great contributions to the United States over many decades -- including in my hometown of Chicago. I want to thank the President and all those involved in helping to host this extraordinary event.

I want to thank my friend and partner, Dmitry Medvedev. Without his personal efforts and strong leadership, we would not be here today. We've met and spoken by phone many times throughout the negotiations of this treaty, and as a consequence we've developed a very effective working relationship built on candor, cooperation, and mutual respect.

One year ago this week, I came here to Prague and gave a speech outlining America's comprehensive commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and seeking the ultimate goal of a world without them. I said then -- and I will repeat now -- that this is a long-term goal, one that may not even be achieved in my lifetime. But I believed then -- as I do now -- that the pursuit of that goal will move us further beyond the Cold War, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime, and make the United States, and the world, safer and more secure. One of the steps that I called for last year was the realization of this treaty, so it's very gratifying to be back in Prague today.

I also came to office committed to "resetting" relations between the United States and Russia, and I know that President Medvedev shared that commitment. As he said at our first meeting in London, our relationship had started to drift, making it difficult to cooperate on issues of common interest to our people. And when the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it's not good for either of our nations, nor is it good for the world.

Together, we've stopped that drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation. Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations. It fulfills our common objective to negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. It includes significant reductions in the nuclear weapons that we will deploy. It cuts our delivery vehicles by roughly half. It includes a comprehensive verification regime, which allows us to further build trust. It enables both sides the flexibility to protect our security, as well as America's unwavering commitment to the security of our European allies. And I look forward to working with the United States Senate to achieve ratification for this important treaty later this year.

Finally, this day demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia -- the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons -- to pursue responsible global leadership. Together, we are keeping our commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which must be the foundation for global non-proliferation.

While the New START treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey. As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons.

President Medvedev and I have also agreed to expand our discussions on missile defense. This will include regular exchanges of information about our threat assessments, as well as the completion of a joint assessment of emerging ballistic missiles. And as these assessments are completed, I look forward to launching a serious dialogue about Russian-American cooperation on missile defense.

But nuclear weapons are not simply an issue for the United States and Russia -- they threaten the common security of all nations. A nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist is a danger to people everywhere -- from Moscow to New York; from the cities of Europe to South Asia. So next week, 47 nations will come together in Washington to discuss concrete steps that can be taken to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years.

And the spread of nuclear weapons to more states is also an unacceptable risk to global security -- raising the specter of arms races from the Middle East to East Asia. Earlier this week, the United States formally changed our policy to make it clear that those [non]-nuclear weapons states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and their non-proliferation obligations will not be threatened by America's nuclear arsenal. This demonstrates, once more, America's commitment to the NPT as a cornerstone of our security strategy. Those nations that follow the rules will find greater security and opportunity. Those nations that refuse to meet their obligations will be isolated, and denied the opportunity that comes with international recognition.

That includes accountability for those that break the rules -- otherwise the NPT is just words on a page. That's why the United States and Russia are part of a coalition of nations insisting that the Islamic Republic of Iran face consequences, because they have continually failed to meet their obligations. We are working together at the United Nations Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran. And we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT, risk an arms race in a vital region, and threaten the credibility of the international community and our collective security.

While these issues are a top priority, they are only one part of the U.S.-Russia relationship. Today, I again expressed my deepest condolences for the terrible loss of Russian life in recent terrorist attacks, and we will remain steadfast partners in combating violent extremism. We also discussed the potential to expand our cooperation on behalf of economic growth, trade and investment, as well as technological innovation, and I look forward to discussing these issues further when President Medvedev visits the United States later this year, because there is much we can do on behalf of our security and prosperity if we continue to work together.

When one surveys the many challenges that we face around the world, it's easy to grow complacent, or to abandon the notion that progress can be shared. But I want to repeat what I said last year in Prague: When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp.

This majestic city of Prague is in many ways a monument to human progress. And this ceremony is a testament to the truth that old adversaries can forge new partnerships. I could not help but be struck the other day by the words of Arkady Brish, who helped build the Soviet Union's first atom bomb. At the age of 92, having lived to see the horrors of a World War and the divisions of a Cold War, he said, "We hope humanity will reach the moment when there is no need for nuclear weapons, when there is peace and calm in the world."

It's easy to dismiss those voices. But doing so risks repeating the horrors of the past, while ignoring the history of human progress. The pursuit of peace and calm and cooperation among nations is the work of both leaders and peoples in the 21st century. For we must be as persistent and passionate in our pursuit of progress as any who would stand in our way.

Once again, President Medvedev, thank you for your extraordinary leadership. (Applause.)

President Medvedev (As translated.) A truly historic event took place: A new Russia-U.S. treaty has been signed for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. This treaty has a 10-year duration. It will supersede the START treaty, which has expired, as well as another existing treaty, Russia-U.S. treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive capabilities.

And first of all, I'd like to thank my colleague, President of the United States of America, for the successful cooperation in this very complex matter, and for the reasonable compromises that have been achieved, thanks to the work of our two teams -- we have already thanked them, but let me do it once again in the presence of the media and the public. We thank them for their excellent work.

And I would also like to thank the leadership of the Czech Republic, Mr. President, for the invitation to hold this signing ceremony here in this beautiful city, in this beautiful springtime, thereby creating a good atmosphere for the future. And I believe that this signature will open a new page for cooperation between our two countries -- among our countries -- and will create safer conditions for life here and throughout the world.

One word -- we aimed at the quality of the treaty. And indeed, the negotiating process has not been simple, but again, our negotiation teams have been working in a highly professional, constructive way that has been lots of work and very often they worked 24 hours a day. And that enabled us to do something that just a couple of months looked like mission impossible; within a short span of time we prepared a full-fledged treaty and signed it.

As a result, we obtained a document that in full measure maintains the balance of interest of Russia and the United States of America. What matters most is that this is a win-win situation. No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe that this is a typical feature of our cooperation -- both parties have won. And taking into account this victory of ours, the entire world community has won.

This agreement enhances strategic stability and, at the same time, enables us to rise to a higher level for cooperation between Russia and the United States. And although the contents of the treaty are already known, let me point out once again what we have achieved, because this is very important thing: 1,550 developed weapons, which is about one-third below the current level; 700 deployed ICBMs -- intercontinental ballistic missile -- and anti-ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, and this represents more than twofold reduction below the current levels; and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers for such missiles -- deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers, which again represents a twofold reduction below the level that existed prior to the signature on this treaty.

And at the same time, each party can use its own discretion to defend the makeup and structure of its strategic offensive potential.

The treaty also includes provisions concerning data exchange. We are quite experienced now in this matter with my colleague and we are great experts on this matter -- perhaps the greatest experts in the world. And the treaty also includes provisions concerning conversion and elimination, inspection provisions and verification provisions as well as confidence-building measures.

The verification mechanism has been significantly simplified and much less costly, as compared with the previous START treaty. At the same time, it ensures the proper verification, irreversibility and transparency of the entire process of reducing strategic offensive arms.

We believe -- and this is our hope and position -- we believe that the treaty can be viable and can operate only provided there is no qualitative or quantitative (inaudible) in place in the capabilities, something that could, in the final analysis, jeopardize the strategic offensive weapons on the Russian side. This is the gist of the statement made by the Russian Federation in connection with the signature on this treaty.

The main task of the full signature period we regard as achieving the ratification of the treaty, as mentioned by my colleague, Mr. President of the United States, and it is also important to synchronize the ratification process. Our American partners, as I understand, intend to proceed quickly to present this document to the Senate for ratification. We also will be working with our Federal Assembly to maintain the necessary dynamics of the ratification process.

By and large, we are satisfied with what we've done. The result we have obtained is good. But today, of course, we have discussed not only the fact of signing this treaty; we have also discussed a whole range of important key issues of concern to all the countries. Of course, we would not omit the Iranian nuclear problem. Regrettably, Iran is not responding to the many constructive proposals that have been made and we cannot turn a blind eye to this. Therefore I do not rule out the possibility of the Security Council of the United Nations will have to review this issue once again.

Our position is well known. Let me briefly outline it now. Of course, sanctions by themselves seldom obtain specific results, although it's difficult to do without them in certain situations. But in any case, those sanctions should be smart and aimed not only at non-proliferation but also to resolve other issues -- rather than to produce (inaudible) for the Iranian people.

(Audio is lost)

I am convinced that all that has been done so far is just the beginning of a long way, long way ahead. I wouldn't like to see the Russian Federation and the United States be narrowed down to just limiting strategic offensive arms.

To be sure, we shoulder specific responsibility, a special responsibility, in that respect, and we --

(Audio is lost)

And let me once again thank President Barack Obama for the cooperation in this area. Thank you.

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