The United States and Russia are inching closer to closing a deal on START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), with high level Russian Government sources telling Fox News the arms treaty is "basically done" and the State Department saying there are only "one or two details to get to the point where one could say all the major issues are in place."
The White House is touting President Obama's involvement in direct negotiations as a key to moving towards a final signing, and is clearly hoping the direct talks between Obama and Russian President Medvedev helped to move the ball.
"I think it is safe to say that the President has been more personally involved with these negotiations than you've probably seen in 20 or 25 years. So we're certainly hopeful that we get something done," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing. "The President has spent an awful lot of his own time working directly with Mr. Medvedev to ensure that we make the progress that we need on these -- on this START treaty."
According to Fox News Correspondent Dana Lewis, Russian sources say the new treaty will reduce nuclear war heads to roughly 1600 per country and 500 delivery vehicles. Lewis also reports the treaty will be signed by both presidents in a month, and discussions are underway to determine where the signing will take place. Although neither Russia nor the United States have been mentioned as potential locations there is talk of a "likely" third country.
The START treaty, which expired in December 2009 is a complicated document covering each and every aspect of nuclear arms control. The specifics deal with numbers of delivery systems and war heads, and how each nation counts those systems. But the biggest obstacle to getting the START treaty completed has been the United States' missile defense system and the unwillingness of Russia to separate defensive systems like the missile shield from offensive systems, which quantifies the number of warheads and delivery systems.
The missile defense system has been a major problem for Russia since the Bush administration announced the program in 2002. At the time Russia argued the plan would lead to a new arms race. In 2007, President Bush and then Russian President Putin continued to argue over a new plan by the United States to position interceptor missiles and radar interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic. During his July visit to Russia, President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev continued discussions on the missile shield, which the White House ultimately scrapped in September.
- Fox News Moscow Correspondent Dana Lewis contributed to this report