- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

GENEVA | It’s official - the U.S. and Russia want to revive arms control talks to cut their nuclear stockpiles.

Disarmament goals pronounced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the issue had not been heard from the one-time enemies in years.

“The right moment has come today, for the first time after the end of the Cold War, for making real progress in resuming the global disarmament process on a broad agenda,” Mr. Lavrov said at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva over the weekend.

Mr. Lavrov’s comments were preceded by another bold statement by Mrs. Clinton during their meeting in this city, long associated with Cold War-era arms control negotiations.

“We are going to believe in arms control and nonproliferation as a core function of our foreign policy,” Mrs. Clinton said Friday, adding that there was “a great deal of confusion and infighting and ideological position-taking regarding arms control and nonproliferation in the last administration.”

Just a year ago, Mr. Lavrov delivered an unusually pessimistic speech at the Conference on Disarmament, a 65-nation body that has failed to produce any substantive results for years.

Russia and other countries blamed the George W. Bush administration’s decision to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was necessary for the U.S. to begin developing a missile-defense system.

Mr. Clinton promised Mr. Lavrov that the Obama administration’s priority will be completing a follow-on accord to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) before it expires in December.

The agreement’s official name is START I, though negotiations on its two successors were never finalized.

“We agreed to a work plan,” Mrs. Clinton said after meeting with Mr. Lavrov. “We are going to create a very specific set of objectives and responsibilities. We hope to be in a position where we can present those to our two presidents before their meeting, so that they can then agree upon the instructions that should be provided to our negotiators.”

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expected to meet on the sidelines of a global financial summit in London early next month.

“There’s been some good preliminary work on START, and we intend to get fully immersed in that,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We discussed some of the elements of what a new treaty would look like.”

In spite of the secretary’s enthusiasm, however, “no decisions on the particulars of the U.S. negotiating position have been made,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA) in Washington.

Unlike the Russians, the Americans have not appointed negotiators, he added.

After a visit to Moscow to discuss arms control issues and specifically START, Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Mr. Obama to name an ambassador-at-large for strategic negotiations with Russia.

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