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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Russia

Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

In recent years, the United States maintained limited cooperation with Russia on Iranian and North Korean nuclear concerns and on nuclear non-proliferation in general. Tensions increased, however, on issues such as NATO enlargement, the recognition of Kosovo, and proposed U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008 further heightened bilateral tensions. 

The Obama Administration moved to revitalize or "reset" U.S.-Russian cooperation on mutual issues of strategic interest while continuing to press U.S. concerns about Russia's military conflict with Georgia and other Russian foreign policy actions. At their first "get acquainted" meeting on April 1, 2009, in London, President Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev issued two joint statements on opening nuclear weapons talks to replace the expiring Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and on U.S.-Russia relations. In the latter joint statement, the two presidents agreed to "deepen cooperation to combat nuclear terrorism," and to "support international negotiations for a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons." 1 Russia agreed to assist the United States and the international community in responding to terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to drug trafficking from Afghanistan. The two sides pledged to strengthen Euro-Atlantic and European security, including through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the NATO-Russia Council. 

At the July 6-8, 2009, presidential summit, the main topics reportedly were Iran, a major U.S. concern, and missile defense, a major Russian concern. One achievement of the summit was the establishment of a U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission intended to strengthen consultations and diplomacy. President Obama highlighted the commission as the "foundation" element in re-setting relations, since it would greatly expand communications between the two countries. The presidents are the co-chairs, and the U.S. Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister coordinate meetings. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reported in October 2009 that her visit to Russia had resulted in progress between the two sides in negotiations to replace START, support for the Global Initiative To Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and cooperation in Afghanistan. Meeting on November 15, 2009, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore, Presidents Obama and Medvedev continued discussions on START and Iran. President Obama reported that he had again stressed to Medvedev that added international sanctions should be applied to Iran if it continued to defy its international obligation not to develop nuclear weapons. 

Presidents Obama and Medvedev signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. New START limits each side to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. The treaty also limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads. 

On June 9, 2010, Russia supported the approval of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which expressed growing international concern with Iran's lack of compliance with ensuring that its nuclear program is peaceful and expanded an arms embargo and tightened restrictions on commerce dealing with "proliferation-sensitive activities" in Iran.

Date of Report: July 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40383
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