New Start Matters

At the end of 2009, the Start treaty between the United States and Russia expired. For the first time in decades there are no mutual inspections and monitoring between the United States and Russia in the nuclear field. For more than a year, the two largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been without the finely calibrated system of trust and verification which the original Start treaty from 1991 ensured.

On April 8, the United States and Russia signed the New Start treaty, which represents a significant step forward in the nuclear commitments of both countries. The treaty would reduce the numbers of strategic weapons to a level of 1,550. At the same time the treaty would restart a verification scheme which has not been in force since the expiration of the 1991 Start.

The signing of New Start was recognized throughout the world as a major achievement that re-energized the global arms control and disarmament debate. It signaled hope that a step had been taken on the long road toward a world without nuclear weapons.

The commitments by Russia and the United States contributed to the successful outcome of the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference earlier this year in New York, and led to the adoption of an action plan on all three pillars of the NPT regime — non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

However, New Start has not yet been ratified and implemented.

The European Union countries represent a variety of historic backgrounds. Most significantly, the 27 member states include countries from both sides of the former Iron Curtain, which was torn down some 20 years ago as the Cold War came to an end. Our countries now belong to the same community of values and we all share the same vision of a safe and secure environment.

Ratification and implementation of New Start would be a major contribution to enhancing the goals of peace, security and disarmament. Reintroducing legally binding limitations on the numbers of nuclear warheads and an effective verification regime would make a positive contribution both to European security and the global non-proliferation regime.

At present there are no legal requirements either on reductions or on verification. The existence of considerable numbers of Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons and their means of delivery not under a regime of mutual control does, in our view, make Europe less safe.

The U.S. and Russia, which possess 95 percent of the global stockpile of nuclear weapons, are faced with a historic opportunity. Both countries can turn their international commitments into reality, reduce the numbers of deployed strategic warheads and their delivery systems and establish a verification system to the benefit of both sides.

We recognize that New Start is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia. However, the treaty will have an impact far beyond the relation between the U.S. and Russia.

The countries of the European Union have a shared interest to strengthen our joint efforts in promoting disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. The ratification of New Start will strengthen the international disarmament regime and bolster wider efforts going forward to tackle countries who are in breach of their NPT commitments. It will therefore have a positive impact on American, European and wider international security. Its impact on international security goes far beyond Europe — it is global. That is why we all share an interest in seeing the new treaty ratified and implemented.

There is another aspect of New Start which is often overlooked.

The E.U. has a long-standing strategic relationship with the United States and today it regards Russia as a strategic partner as well. The recent NATO summit in Lisbon turned out to be a historic event in Euro-Atlantic relations. The summit could very well herald the beginning of a new relationship between Russia, the United States and Europe based on mutual confidence, transparency and predictability. Our cooperation should contribute to creating a common space of peace, prosperity, stability and security.

We believe that this broader, positive momentum in our relations should not be wasted. We should seize the opportunity and build on this momentum in order to create a safer world. Ratification of New Start would be an important step toward this goal.

We urge the United States and Russia in their deliberations to be guided by these overriding objectives.

In this we — as European foreign ministers — give our full support to the efforts of the governments of the United States and Russia.

We urge a swift ratification and implementation of the New Start treaty.

Michael Spindelegger, Austria. Steven Vanackere, Belgium. Nickolay Mladenov, Bulgaria. Markos Kyprianou, Cyprus. Lene Espersen, Denmark. Urmas Paet, Estonia. Alexander Stubb, Finland. Michèle Alliot-Marie, France. Guido Westerwelle, Germany. Dimitrios Droutsas, Greece. János Martonyi, Hungary. Micheál Martin, Ireland. Franco Frattini, Italy. Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Latvia. Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg. Tonio Borg, Malta. Uri Rosenthal, Netherlands. Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland. Luís Amado, Portugal. Teodor Baconschi, Romania. Mikulás Dzurinda, Slovakia. Samuel ŽZbogar, Slovenia. Trinidad Jiménez, Spain. Carl Bildt, Sweden. William Hague, United Kingdom.

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