Commentary: A small but positive step on nuclear warhead counts

U.S.-Russian relations are going through a rough patch, but fortunately that hasn't prevented President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev from signing a preliminary agreement calling for substantial cuts in both countries' nuclear stockpiles.

The pact will serve as a roadmap for more detailed talks on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The current START accord, signed in 2002, expires in December. It required both countries to reduce their nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200. Under the deal signed by Obama and Medvedev, the next START accord will further reduce the warhead count to between 1,500 to 1,675.

Those numbers, however, hide disagreements over how the cuts should be imposed. Russia, for example, says warheads in storage should be included. Washington has said the count should be applied only to warheads operationally deployed, or ready for launch.

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