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Moscow Summit Produces Successes, ‘To-Do’ List

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2009 – The United States had high goals for the recent Moscow Summit, and while significant progress was made, distinct challenges were identified as well, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasian policy told a congressional panel yesterday.

“It was a test of whether the U.S. and Russia can work together to address core defense and security challenges, including strategic arms reductions, Afghanistan, proliferation of dangerous technologies, military relations and missile defense. The results were strikingly positive,” Celeste A. Wallander told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“While we did not achieve everything on the list with this first step,” Wallander said, “we made significant progress on a number of very important issues and achieved very real agreements in the defense and military spheres.”

Of the eight agreements and statements signed at the three-day summit that began July 6, seven addressed defense and security challenges, she said.

Earlier this year the United States began transporting nonmilitary goods through Russia under a NATO-Russia arrangement. On or about Sept. 6, a new agreement between the United States and Russia will take effect, allowing transit of lethal materiel and personnel through Russian airspace.

Providing for up to 4,500 military flights and unlimited commercial flights, the agreement will save the United States as much as $133 million over the use of other routes. It also allows for diversification of supply lines, and reduces transit times and fuel usage, Wallander said.

“The lethal-transit agreement is part of a broader improvement in U.S.-Russian cooperation on Afghanistan,” she said, adding that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has acknowledged that Afghanistan is a common problem for his country and the United States.

Another high-priority issue for President Barack Obama at the summit was ensuring the security of nuclear materials and facilities, and strengthening U.S. cooperation with the Russians to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, Wallander said.

“President Obama and President Medvedev agreed to broaden cooperation to increase the level of security of nuclear facilities worldwide,” she said. “We also remain committed to implementing the disposition agreement, through which we will dispose of 34 metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium.”

Russia may be open to more significant cooperation in this area as the country shares the U.S. goal of ensuring additional countries in the Middle East and Asia don’t seek nuclear weapons, she added.

The summit also resulted in a joint understanding on the basic framework for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, follow-on treaty, which Wallander described as a central security issue in the countries’ bilateral relationship that has global implications as well.

The presidents agreed to an allowable number of strategic delivery vehicles in the range of 500 to 1,100 and 1,500 to 1,675 of their associated warheads. These numbers would have to be achieved within seven years of the treaty’s entering into force, she said.

This is compared to the maximum 1,600 launch vehicles allowed by the expiring treaty, and the 2,200 warheads allowed by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.

“While we made progress on START and nuclear security, missile defense remains a difficult issue,” Wallander said. “Nevertheless, we were able to make some progress in laying the groundwork for cooperation in the future.”

Medvedev agreed to conduct a joint ballistic missile threat assessment, which primarily would focus on Iran and North Korea, she said. “We hope that the threat assessment will offer an effective venue in which to discuss and explain our respective viewpoints,” Wallander added.

The joint threat assessment’s first meeting will be conducted in Moscow later this week.

The United States also pledged to renew efforts to open a joint data exchange center in Moscow. The center would allow for the sharing of missile launch data between the two countries in the effort to reduce or eliminate the chances for an inadvertent launch due to misunderstandings over a test or other benign missile launch.

“We believe that through this center we could also exchange data from third-country launches, information that would be of obvious benefit to both parties,” Wallander said.

The U.S. decision on how to proceed with missile defense in Europe will be dictated by its security interests and will take into account its own security commitments to friends and allies, Wallander said. “But as we move forward,” she added, “the steps initiated at the Moscow Summit will provide an excellent opportunity to engage Russia constructively on how the United States and Russia should cooperate in protecting our populations from nuclear and ballistic missile threats from Iran and elsewhere.”

Russia and the United States also are working to improve military-to-military programs, with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Russia’s defense minister signing a new framework on military-to-military cooperation. The framework establishes conditions that will raise military cooperation to a new level and deepen mutual understanding between the respective armed forces.

An agreement also was made to re-engage this fall, both bilaterally and multilaterally, on discussions to re-start conventional arms control in Europe, Wallander said.

Russia renewed the work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, as well. The act reaffirmed the importance of the commission as a forum through which both nations seek to determine the fates of their missing servicemen, she said.

“The summit offered an opportunity for the U.S. to clearly affirm our commitment to the security and stability of countries throughout Europe and Eurasia,” she said. “President Obama affirmed our commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries -- naming particularly Georgia and Ukraine, and the right of all countries to choose membership in alliances, including NATO.”

Obama made clear during his meetings with Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that U.S. support for Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity was “steadfast and unequivocal,” she added.

The Russian leaderships’ views to the contrary were not surprising, but it was a measure of how much work is yet to be done and the importance of the U.S. commitment to it, Wallander said.

Another concrete result of the summit is the agreement to create the Bilateral Presidential Commission, which will provide a structure for implementing agreements reached and will monitor progress in further negotiations through six committees, she said. It also will lay the groundwork for seeking agreement and cooperation in additional areas.

While many challenges facing Russia and the United States were positively addressed during the summit, others remain on the to-do list, Wallander said.

“On the issue of sovereignty and the principles of international law that reinforce it in Europe and Eurasia, the discussions revealed that we remain far apart,” she said. “[This will not] prevent us from implementing successful agreements with Russia and pursuing the very promising start established at the summit for a broader cooperative agenda.

“It is far better for our friends and partners in Europe and Eurasia if the U.S. can build on our summit success to seek progress on these tough security challenges,” she added.

Contact Author

Celeste A. Wallander

Related Sites:
State Department Background Note on Russia
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty

Related Articles:
Obama Proposes New Security Relationship with Russia
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