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New Russian Nuke Cuts Will Depend on U.S. Missile Defense Moves: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said his government would only contemplate further bilateral nuclear arms reductions with the United States if issues with NATO's evolving ballistic missile shield are first handled, Reuters reported.

Stemming the global spread of unconventional weapons is a "key issue on the world agenda," the Russian leader said, adding that Moscow's adherence to the New START accord with Washington shows just how dedicated Russia is to arms control.

The treaty requires the United States and Russia by 2018 to each reduce deployment of strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems. President Obama has said he would like to open new bilateral arms control talks with Russia that would cover not only deployed long-range nuclear arms but also nonstrategic warheads and weapons held in storage.

"Russia is open to new joint initiatives in this area," Putin said in a statement prepared for reading at an anti-nuclear weapons conference in Japan.  "At the same time, their realization is clearly possible only on a fair mutual basis and if all factors affecting international security and strategic stability are taken into account."

Among the factors are "the unilateral and totally unlimited deployment of a global U.S. missile defense system," according to Putin.

The Kremlin views the Obama administration's efforts to deploy increasingly advanced land- and sea-based missile interceptors around Europe as a threat to Russian strategic deterrence. The United States and NATO maintain their antimissile activities are aimed at defending against a feared missile strike from the Middle East.

Washington is also moving to bolster deployment of ballistic missile defenses in Asia and the Middle East.

In one of his first acts after returning to office this May, Putin directed his Foreign Ministry to continue demanding from NATO and Washington binding assurances that U.S. interceptors in Europe would not target Russian nuclear missiles. Moscow has threatened to field ballistic missiles in territory bordering several NATO states if the dispute persists, among other threats.

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