World and Nation

Opening new era, U.S. and Russia sign nuclear arms pact

With flourish and fanfare, President Barack Obama and President Dmitry A. Medvedev of Russia signed a nuclear arms control treaty on Thursday and opened what they hoped would be a new era in the tumultuous relationship between two former Cold War adversaries.

Meeting here in the heart of a once-divided Europe, the two leaders put aside the acrimony that has characterized Russian-U.S. ties in recent years as they agreed to bring down their arsenals and restore an inspection regime that expired in December. Along the way, they sidestepped unresolved disputes over missile defense and other issues.

“When the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it is not good for either of our nations, nor is it good for the world,” Obama said as his words echoed through a majestic, gilded hall in the famed Prague Castle. “Together, we have stopped the drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation. Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations.”

Medvedev called the treaty signing “a truly historic event” that will “open a new page” in Russian-U.S. relations. “What matters most is this is a win-win situation,” he said. “No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe this is a typical feature of our cooperation. Both parties have won.”

“We cannot turn a blind eye to this,” Medvedev said, while adding that sanctions “should be smart” and avoid hardship for the Iranian people.

Obama said he expected “to be able to secure strong, tough sanctions” on Iran during the spring.

The apparently warm relationship between the two presidents was on display as they entered the hall to trumpet music. They whispered and smiled with each other in English as they sat side by side signing copies of the so-called New START treaty, trading compliments.