By Oleg Shchedrov
St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009
Russia is ready to drastically cut its nuclear stockpiles in a new arms pact with the United States if Washington meets Moscow’s concerns over missile defense, President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday.
“We are ready to reduce by several times the number of nuclear delivery vehicles in comparison with the START-1 pact,” Medvedev said at a news conference in Amsterdam.
“As far as warheads are concerned, their numbers should be lower than envisaged by the Moscow 2002 pact,” he added.
He was referring to an interim pact called the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty that commits the sides to further cuts in their arsenals to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads by 2012.
A new arms pact to follow the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires on Dec. 5, is at the center of efforts by Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama to improve bilateral ties that sank to post-Cold War lows under the previous U.S. administration.
A successor treaty aimed at cutting long-range nuclear weapons will be a major topic at talks between Medvedev and Obama in Moscow from July 6 to 8. Negotiators from both sides are expected to start a new round of consultations on a new pact this week, Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told reporters. START stipulates that neither side can deploy more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and no more than 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles, which includes intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and bomber aircraft.
A Kremlin source said Medvedev’s remarks amounted to instructions to Russian arms negotiators.
But Medvedev again made clear that progress on START was linked to the future of U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe.
In a separate statement posted on the Kremlin web site and distributed by Kremlin officials to journalists, Medvedev said, “We cannot agree to the U.S. plans of a global missile defense system.
“I would want to stress that cuts proposed by us are only possible if the United States lift Russia’s concerns [about missile defense],” he said.
“In any case, the connection between offensive and defensive strategic weapons should be reflected in the new treaty.” Russian leaders see signs of the Obama administration taking a more cautious approach to the missile defense project and feel that some kind of compromise can be worked out.
Medvedev also said Russia was concerned about U.S. plans to deploy non-nuclear warheads on strategic missiles, which it says reduces the chances of solid verification of any future treaty and increases security threats.
Medvedev also reiterated Russia’s insistence that deployment of strategic weapons in the outer space should be banned. “We need a solid, verifiable document,” he said.
St. Petersburg Times
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