Russia: Arms Treaty with US Must Include Missile Defense

20 May 2009

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov looks on during a meeting in Moscow, 20 May 2009
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov looks on during a meeting in Moscow, 20 May 2009
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said plans for a U.S. missile defense system must be taken into account in a new strategic arms agreement being negotiated between Moscow and Washington.  

Foreign Minister Lavrov said Russia will study basic proposals made by the U.S. delegation at talks in Moscow aimed at negotiating a new arms control treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which expires in December.

He spoke at a news conference with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit as U.S.-Russian arms negotiators met behind closed doors for a second day to discuss the treaty.

Lavrov said the final outcome of current negotiations should be a step forward compared to the existing treaty. He noted the general principle of the treaty should be the equal security of both sides and the preservation of parity in the area of strategic stability.

Russia has strongly opposed a U.S. proposal to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe. The Kremlin rejects the U.S. contention that the system would be designed to guard against a possible Iranian missile attack. Instead, Moscow sees the system as a threat to Russian security.

The current START treaty prohibits deployment of more than 6,000 nuclear warheads on various delivery systems - intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as bombers.  The agreement resulted in an 80 percent reduction in the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, but both countries still have thousands of nuclear weapons.  

On Tuesday, the EastWest Institute, a New-York based policy institute, issued a report by a group of American and Russian scientists that said the U.S. missile defense system that Moscow opposes would not offer dependable defense against an Iranian missile attack. The Institute said the more urgent task is for Russia, the United States and others to cooperate through diplomatic and political means to find a resolution of the crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.

A new START treaty is seen as necessary for the United States and Russia to inspect and verify each other's nuclear arsenals. Among the differences negotiators need to overcome are the number of allowable warheads and whether the treaty will cover bombers and missiles. The U.S. is reported willing to count only warheads ready for launch. Russia wants to include those in storage as well.