Inching Closer

By John Liang / January 27, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today regarding the negotiations over a follow-on pact to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. According to a White House "readout" of the call:

Earlier today, President Obama spoke with President Medvedev of Russia to thank him for his hard work and leadership on the New START Treaty negotiations, as the two sides have made steady progress in recent weeks. The Presidents agreed that negotiations are nearly complete, and pledged to continue the constructive contacts that have advanced U.S.-Russian relations over the last year.

The original START Treaty expired on Dec. 5. Russian and U.S. officials broke off negotiations late last month for the Christmas holidays. Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, left earlier this month for Moscow, and the rest of the U.S. negotiating team will head for Geneva on Feb. 1, Inside Missile Defense reported today.

IMD also notes that a senior U.S. diplomat earlier this month declined to say exactly when a final agreement could be reached:

“We’re doing all the things that you have to do beforehand -- the language, working on annexes, but these things are very technical; these technical annexes are non-trivial,” Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said.

“There’s a lot of really important stuff in there, so when do you declare yourself done?” she added in a Jan. 13 breakfast meeting with defense reporters. “I could actually say, ‘We’re done negotiating, but we have all these other things to do,’ and there’s going to be a lag time between the time we say we’re done and the time that it actually gets up to the Senate.”

“I think that we are really close, we are in a place where we’re working very, very hard, both sides are doing those things,” Tauscher said.