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Arms Control Pact Would Not Restrict Missile Defenses, U.S. Says

The Obama administration yesterday refuted reports that a pending U.S.-Russian arms control treaty could place limitations on missile defense deployments in addition to mandating strategic arsenal reductions by each country, the Washington Times reported (see GSN, Feb. 9).

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged last July to cut their nations' respective strategic arsenals to between 1,500 and 1,675 deployed nuclear warheads under the new pact, which would replace the recently expired 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Negotiators have reportedly also agreed to reduce each state's arsenal of nuclear delivery vehicles -- missiles, submarines and bombers -- to between 700 and 800, down from the 1,100-vehicle limit set by the leaders in July.

A recent blog post by U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle spurred speculation that the body of the treaty would address the use of antimissile systems. Inclusion of missile defenses in the treaty would mark a victory for Moscow, which has worried that unchecked use of such systems could upset the strategic balance between the U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, said one U.S. official familiar with the talks.

"As we have made clear to the Russians through this negotiation, there is no direct link between (missile defense and strategic offensive arms)," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said yesterday, noting that the negotiation and composition of the document were still under way.

"The START agreement will in no way affect our deployment of missile defense assets in Europe as our announcement last week with Romania underscores," Crowley said (see GSN, Feb. 9). "The deployments under the phased adaptive approach will be done faster than previously planned and protect all of Europe."

Russia sees missile defense "very negatively, because it could weaken our missile forces," Russian General Staff head Gen. Nikolai Makarov said Tuesday.

The pending arms control deal "must take into account the link between defensive and offensive strategic weapons, he said. "This link is very close; they are absolutely interdependent. It would be wrong not to take the missile defense into account" (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, Feb. 12).

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