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    06 July 2009

    US and Russia agree on arms and Afghanistan

    Russia and the United States have agreed sweeping cuts in nuclear weapons, and to allow American planes to use Russian airspace to resupply NATO forces in Afghanistan. Those are the two headline announcements from President Obama’s first day in Moscow.

    He and President Medvedev also agreed to try to resolve Washington’s planned missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Kremlin said deep differences still remain, but the two sides are to set up a special commission to work on a solution.

    This was the second time the two men have met: they said they had a good personal relations, and wanted to improve ties after years of distrust.

    “Obviously our two countries have their own understanding of their role, but at the same time we accept our wider responsibilities at a time when globalisation means that the world depends on our decisions,” said the Russian leader.

    “The President and I agreed that the relationship between Russia and the United States has suffered from a sense of drift,” said Obama. “We resolved to reset US-Russian relations so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest.”

    Back in the Cold War, Russia and America boasted many thousands of missiles and nuclear warheads. If the two sides can make any progress on a new arms reduction treaty, those arsenals will be reduced to about 1500 weapons on each side.

    Afghanistan is also important to both countries. Obama has said it is a war the West cannot afford to lose, while Russia has a vested interest in defeating the Taliban as it fears a Muslim insurgency on its southern borders.

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