“Every onsite inspection, every piece of telemetry, every visit ... was all based on agreements embodied in START,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The administration also faced a review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and needed international cooperation to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Obama and his aides felt all of those issues would be advanced by rapidly replacing the START treaty, the official said.
“So the decision was made very early on in the administration ... that for the New START treaty we would rely on the old Bush administration guidance,” the official said. “We would basically swallow hard, even though we wanted to have our own imprint.”
With that decision made, things moved quickly.
Three months after the Prague speech, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a framework agreement to negotiate a new arms treaty that would further cut arsenals of strategic nuclear warheads.
But then talks dragged on. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev did not sign the New START pact until April 2010, almost a year to the day after his Hradcany Square speech.
The delay foreshadowed the difficulties to come.
“The reason why it took as long as it did is the Russians thought we wanted it more than they did, particularly after Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize for the Prague speech,” said Clark Murdock, an expert on nuclear issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.