U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin a three-day visit to Russia Monday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry described it as an important step in moving the Russia-U.S. partnership forward after a summit in July of the presidents of the two countries in Moscow built a strong base.
Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as coordinators of the Russian-American presidential commission, will discuss “aspects of its structure and effectiveness” and to “outline the schedule for bilateral contacts,” according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.
A key item on the agenda is another round of talks by the two sides on replacing the cold war-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I).
United States and Russia have held seven rounds of negotiations so far, aimed at signing a follow-up treaty on nuclear arms limitation.
START I, expiring at the year-end, places a limit of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on each side. The Moscow understanding calls for reducing nuclear warheads held by each country to between 1,500 and 1,675 by the end of 2012.
Dropping of Washington’s European missile defense plan was a major condition by Moscow to consider major cuts to its nuclear arsenal.
The top diplomats will also discuss Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program, and the Middle East peace process.
Clinton’s visit will be preceded by consultations between Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. under secretary of state Ellen Tauscher on missile defense.