START Me Up

New START is finally getting off the ground. Over a year since the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expired, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will finalize the new agreement this Saturday in Munich. The U.S. Senate put its stamp of approval on the document in December, and Russia’s Parliament approved the accord last week. In addition to imposing limits on strategic missiles and nuclear weapons, the treaty includes verification rules, and that means each side will get a glimpse into the other’s arsenals for the first time in almost two years. Clinton will be in Germany for the Munich Security Conference. Also expected to be in attendance: Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the host country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Diplomat Frank Wisner was sent to Cairo by the Obama administration because of his close ties to the country and, more specifically, to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. According to the Washington Post, Wisner can talk to Mubarak “as a friend,” having known the ruler for decades and having been a proponent of close U.S.-Egypt ties. And apparently his visit had some effect. Reportedly Wisner conveyed to Mubarak that the leader needed to tell the Egyptian people he would not run for reelection. He also mentioned that Mubarak should step down from his post. The Egyptian president did the former yesterday. But even as violence erupted between pro- and anti-Mubarak protestors, Mubarak has not yet given any indication that he’ll step aside.

Adding to Wisner’s attempts at persuasion, President Obama got on the phone with Mubarak after the Egyptian president announced he would not run for reelection. Obama said he told Mubarak that it is his “belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.”

Also yesterday, Secretary Clinton met with other U.S. officials—like Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis—to talk about human trafficking. The review covered a lot of ground, from efforts to protect domestic workers brought to the U.S. by foreign diplomats to curbing child prostitution and protecting victims.