US and Russia Agree on Nuclear Weapons Cuts

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Russia and the United States agreed last night to cut their nuclear warhead arsenals to as few as 1,500 each, aiming toward the lowest levels of any US-Russia arms control deal.

The initial agreement, signed by presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev at a Moscow summit, is meant to guide negotiators as the nations work toward a replacement pact for the START strategic arms control reduction treaty, which expires in December.

The joint understanding, signed after about three hours of talks at the Kremlin, also commits the new treaty to lower each nation's longer-range missiles for delivering nuclear bombs to between 500 and 1,100. Under current treaties, each country is allowed up to 2,200 warheads and 1,600 launch vehicles.

A White House statement said the new treaty "will include effective verification measures."

"The new agreement will enhance the security of both the US and Russia, as well as provide predictability and stability in strategic offensive forces," the statement said.

The leaders also announced several other deals meant to show progress toward repairing badly damaged USRussian relations including Moscow allowing the United States to transport arms across its land and airspace into Afghanistan for the war there.

They outlined other ways to work together to help stabilise Afghanistan, including increasing assistance to the Afghan army and police and training counter-narcotics personnel. A joint statement said they welcomed increased international support for approaching Afghan elections and they were prepared to help Afghanistan and Pakistan work together against the "common threats of terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking."

Other side agreements include reviving a joint commission to try to account for missing service members of both countries dating back to the Second World War and new co-operation on public health issues. …