ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
Shortly after concluding a phone call with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House briefing room to hail the new arms control agreement with Russia, replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty that expired on December 5th.
“I’m pleased to announce that after a year of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia have agreed to the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades,” the president said from the press podium.
Negotiations on the new START treaty with Russia have been worked on intensely for the past year. Mr. Obama said today it had been one of his highest priorities since taking office.
“It cuts – by about a third – the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia will deploy,” Obama said describing the agreement. “It significantly reduces missiles and launchers. It puts in place a strong and effective verification regime. And it maintains the flexibility that we need to protect and advance our national security, and to guarantee our unwavering commitment to the security of our Allies.”
The president will travel to Prague, Czech Republic, for an April 8th signing of the treaty. The following week he will host leaders from over forty nations in Washington, D.C., for a nonproliferation summit.
With the signing of the treaty the president said that this should send a message about Russian and American leadership to the world.
“With this agreement, the United States and Russia – the two largest nuclear powers in the world – also send a clear signal that we intend to lead. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.”
The president asked for there to be “strong, bipartisan” support to ratify the new START treaty in Congress, and said that will be one more step forward in “leaving behind the legacy of the 20th century.”