(Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sealed an agreement on Friday on a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty.
Here are details on the treaty, why it is important and the path to its ratification in the United States:
The new treaty is a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired in December. But perhaps more importantly, it is seen a major step to improving Russian-U.S. relations after years of tension that peaked following Russia’s war with U.S.-supported Georgia in 2008.
Obama and Medvedev plan to sign the treaty on April 8 in Prague, where the U.S. president last year made a major speech outlining his vision for eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
The new treaty reduces the numbers of deployed warheads from previously agreed levels, but still leaves Russia and the United States with enough nuclear weapons to easily assure their mutual annihilation.
* WARHEADS - Limits the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550, which is down nearly two-thirds from the original START treaty and is 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
* LAUNCHERS - Limits to 800 the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
* MISSILES - Limits the number of ICBMs, SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 700.
The treaty still must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate. The Obama administration says it does not expect opposition because the treaty does not put limits on U.S. missile defense plans. Analysts believe opposition Republicans could seize upon the treaty’s ratification process as a chance to brand Obama as soft on defense.
Writing by Phil Stewart; editing by Patricia Wilson and Vicki Allen