Russia reserves right to opt out of START
Posted on: Wed April 07, 2010
MOSCOW: The new US-Russian arms control treaty is a much better deal for Russia than its predecessor, but Moscow reserves the right to withdraw from it if a planned US missile defence system grows into a threat, Russia s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Sergey Lavrov said Russia will issue a statement outlining the terms for such a withdrawal after President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the treaty on Thursday in Prague. The new accord replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, which expired in December.
Lavrov has said before that Russia could withdraw from the treaty. But his comments at a briefing on Tuesday were his most specific yet on how and why a withdrawal could occur.
Russia will have the right to opt out of the treaty if ... the US strategic missile defence begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces, he said.
Moscow welcomed Obama s decision to scrap the previous administration s plans for missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, but expressed concern about plans for a revamped shield, including a possible facility in Romania.
Lavrov said the site in Romania poses no immediate threat, but Russia could opt out of the new treaty if US missile interceptors become capable of intercepting Russia s strategic missiles.
We have noted that the US system won t have a strategic capacity in its early stages, he said. We shall see what will happen next. When and if this system gets a strategic capacity, we shall see whether it creates risks for our strategic nuclear forces.
The talks on a START successor had dragged on for nearly a year. They were stymied most recently by Russia s demand for an explicit link between strategic arms cuts and development of the US missile defence system. The US Senate, however, has opposed any restrictions on the shield. Moscow eventually agreed to have just a general statement noting a link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons. US officials said the wording imposes no constraints on missile defence.
Lavrov said the new agreement will be the first arms-control treaty to make the parties fully equal. He said Russia shares Obama s goal of a nuclear-free world, but said other nations must join the disarmament process, as well.
Meanwhile, Russia warned the United States on Tuesday that putting conventional warheads on long-range missiles would jeopardise President Barack Obama s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Two days before Obama is to sign a landmark nuclear arms reduction pact with President Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also repeated Moscow s warning it could withdraw from the treaty if US missile-defence plans threatened Russia.
But he suggested the plans were unlikely to pose a threat in the near future. Lavrov was drawing lines in the sand ahead of the signing by the presidents, in Prague, of a treaty committing the former Cold War foes to cut their arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads by about 30 per cent.
He said Russia shared the goal of a world without nuclear arms, which Obama set out in Prague a year ago, but made clear Russia wanted assurances that it would not end up at a strategic disadvantage.
We believe the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons is very important, Lavrov told a news conference. But it s clear that it is impossible to move toward that goal in a vacuum.
Courtesy : The News