U.S., Russia may be close to nuclear weapons pact

After months of negotiations with Russia, Obama administration officials are hopeful about a breakthrough – possibly this week – that would enable the two sides to sign a successor to their most extensive nuclear weapons treaty before it expires Dec. 5.

The optimism stems from a trip to Moscow in late October by national security adviser James Jones, who gave his Kremlin counterpart a package of proposals for the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, according to U.S. and Russian officials. Moscow has not yet formally responded, but high-level Russian officials have reacted positively, senior U.S. officials said.

Securing a replacement for the 1991 treaty is a critical first step in President Barack Obama’s ambitious global arms-control agenda.

The new START agreement will contain relatively modest cuts in the 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads allowed to each side under a June 2002 agreement between President George W. Bush and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin. At a summit in July, Obama and Medvedev agreed on a new ceiling of 1,500 to 1,675 for each side.

A more contentious issue has been reducing the number of nuclear-capable bombers and land- or submarine-based missiles, with the Russians pressing for deeper cuts than the U.S. side.

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