Pax Christi, WCC, welcome nuclear arms reduction treaty

The World Council of Churches and Pax Christi have welcomed the news that US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have reached an outline agreement to cut back their nations' stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

After three hours of talks at the Kremlin on Monday, Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev publicly signed a joint understanding to negotiate a new arms control treaty that would set lower levels of both nuclear warheads and delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles and bombers.

Each country agreed to cut deployed nuclear warheads to 1,500-1,675 from 1,700-2,200 and  reduce delivery systems from a range of 500-1,000 to 1,600.  The treaty  is to be signed before Start I expires in December and include "effective" verification measures. The reductions will be achieved within seven years of  the new treaty.

Bruce Kent Vice President of  Pax Christi told ICN:  "The Obama -Medvedev agreement on nuclear weapons is a very positive sign indeed.Six weeks ago in Cairo President Obama made clear  'America's commitment to seek a world in which no nation holds nuclear weapons'.

"This agreement, and his previous cut in funding for a new US  nuclear warhead, are positive signs that he is serious.

"It sends the right signals to the participants at the next year's  Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty review conference. Nuclear abolition is now on the agenda of the world's most powerful state. This new initiative should be responded to positively by the British Government. It is absurd for Britain to be planning, at vast expense, to renew Trident and thus remain a nuclear power for the next 50 years.

“ 'Do as I say not as I do' has never been a convincing instruction. This agreement, and President Obama's  previous cut in funding for a new US  nuclear warhead, are positive signs that he is serious.

The  WCC general secretary Rev Dr Samuel Kobia said in a statement on Tuesday: "It is heartening that the leaders of the United States and Russia have now made a preliminary agreement and public commitment to achieve specific cuts in each country's stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons.

"Their proposed cut is an encouraging initiative and a step forward on the difficult but essential journey that the world must take to free itself from the spectre of self-destruction.

"The World Council of Churches has called for the abolition of nuclear arms since shortly after their inception. As possessors of most of the world's nuclear weapons, it is necessary that these two powers lead nuclear disarmament by concrete example.  In accepting the principle for a framework agreement which is aimed to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the leaders of the US and Russia are preparing to reduce their nuclear weapons. 

"We recognize the commitment of both the US and Russian leaders' joint responsibility for nuclear arms control. We urge them to stand side by side in that shared responsibility and make urgent and unambiguous progress together. In fact, we believe that by doing so they will gradually gain the moral authority needed to encourage other states in eliminating these weapons of mass destruction. Making the world safe from nuclear weapons will require levels of cooperation and trust that are also indispensable in tackling the most global problems of our day.

"Agreement by the two major powers to cooperate in limiting nuclear arms, which will enhance and improve international relations in the 21st Century, would be widely welcomed among member churches of the World Council of Churches. Most live in countries that have long-since committed themselves to a world free of nuclear weapons and have already waited decades for nuclear-weapon states to do the same. Our common prayer is for security that is shared by all.    

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