Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama signed on Thursday a new treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive weapons to replace the START 1 treaty, which expired in December 2009.
The document is expected to bring Moscow and Washington to a new level of cooperation in the areas of nuclear disarmament and arms control.
"Together we start on that path and prove the benefits of cooperation. Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation and for U.S.-Russian relations," Barack Obama said at the signing ceremony in Prague.
The new strategic arms pact stipulates that the number of nuclear warheads is to be reduced to 1,550 on each side, while the number of operational and stockpiled delivery vehicles must not exceed 800 on each side.
Under the deal, which will have a validity term of ten years, unless it is superseded by another strategic arms reduction agreement, strategic offensive weapons are to be based solely on the national territories of Russia and the United States.
Speaking after the signing of the documents, both presidents emphasized the importance of the document for nuclear security and for Russian-U.S. relations and pledged to work with lawmakers to ensure timely ratification of the documents by both sides.
The presidents, who met shortly before the signing ceremony, discussed a number of issues related to sanctions against Iran, arms control, non-proliferation, and missile defense.
The UN Security Council may revise its approach to Iran as Tehran is not responding to compromise proposals on its nuclear program.
"Unfortunately, Tehran is not responding to a number of constructive compromise proposals and we cannot close our eyes to this. Therefore, I do not rule out that the Security Council will have to revise this issue," the Russian president said.
Obama reaffirmed that the United States would not tolerate any actions by Iran that risk an arms race in the Middle East.
"That is why United States and Russia are forming a coalition of nations insisting that the Islamic republic of Iran faces consequences because they continually failed to meet their obligations," Obama said.
"We are working together in the U.N. Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran and we will not tolerate actions that flout NPT risking arms race in the vital region," he added.
Both presidents have also pledged to continue dialogue on missile defense to remove disagreements that remain between Moscow and Washington over U.S. missile shield plans.
Medvedev proposed cooperation with the United States in creating a global missile defense system.
"We are interested in cooperating on this issue as closely as possible with our American partners," Medvedev told a press conference in Prague.
"We offered the United States our services in establishing a global missile defense system. We need to think about this," he added.
Russia earlier emphasized its right to withdraw from the new treaty if a quantitative and qualitative increase in U.S. strategic missile defense significantly harmed the effectiveness of Russia's strategic nuclear forces.
Obama said missile defense could be an important component of protecting the United States and its allies from the threat of a missile attack.
But he insisted that the U.S. missile plans will not harm Russia's interests and the existing balance of forces.
"We also want to make clear that the approach that we have taken is in no way intended to change the strategic balance between the United States and Russia," Obama said.
The treaty must be ratified by the Russian parliament and the U.S. Congress and will come into force after the sides exchange instruments of ratification.
"I feel confident that we are going to be able to get it ratified," Obama said.
Medvedev said Russia and the United States should submit the new disarmament treaty for ratification simultaneously and added that there would be no delay on Moscow's part.
Russian and U.S. senators will hold meetings on April 20-21 to discuss the ratification of the new treaty.
PRAGUE, April 8 (RIA Novosti)