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Russian Federation inspectors visit Vandenberg

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty team from the Russian Federation departs Vandenberg March 5, after completing an on-site verification in compliance to START requirements. United States sends similar teams to inspect former Soviet strategic weapon facilities. Reciprocal inspections are an element of the START I accord, which was signed in 1991 and went into action in 1994. (Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Stephanie Longoria)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty team from the Russian Federation departs Vandenberg AFB March 5, after completing an on-site verification in compliance to START requirements. United States sends similar teams to inspect former Soviet strategic weapon facilities. Reciprocal inspections are an element of the START I accord, which was signed in 1991 and went into action in 1994. (Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Stephanie Longoria)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty inspection team from the Russian Federation visited Vandenberg March 3-5. 

In compliance with the START I accord, the START team completed an on-site verification of Vandenberg's facilities and equipment, checking abandoned sites previously used for storage and empty launch facilities. 

"The Russian Federation's START team came here to validate and verify the memorandum of understanding making sure that Vandenberg had the precise amount of equipment that was recorded," said Bruce MacIntyre, a 30th Space Wing resources compliance officer. 

The recorded equipment refers to Vandenberg's inventory of launch and missile systems. 

The treaty allows the Russian Federation up to two visits a year to Vandenberg for verification. The team has 24 hours to complete inspections of 12 designated areas. 

"The team that came to Vandenberg from the Russian Federation was very professional and knowledgeable," Mr. MacIntyre said. "We have never had any problems with any of the inspectors in all of the inspections we've had." 

The United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement in 1991, in an effort to decrease and limit the possession of the countries' strategic offensive arms. After a few months of the signing, however, the Soviet Union dissolved, and four independent states within the former Soviet Union region with nuclear weapons were born: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. 

"Once the Soviet Union broke up, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine each had to resign the treaty. This is why there was a delay from 1991 to when the accord actually went into force in 1994," Mr. MacIntyre said. 

The United States sends a team similar to the Russia Federation's START team to inspect strategic weapons facilities in Russia. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine are not inspected because they have transferred all their nuclear assets to Russia. 

The treaty is slated to end in December this year. However, through negotiations, the treaty can be extended for five years with the agreement of both parties. President Barack Obama has mentioned his interest to continue with the verification process, whether it is an extension of the current treaty, a new treaty or a combination of treaties.