Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Friday said it is possible but "undesirable" that his nation would abandon a strategic arms control accord with the United States, ITAR-Tass reported.
Moscow has warned previously it could unilaterally pull out of the New START agreement if its concerns about planned U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe are not addressed. The treaty requires the United States and Russia to by 2018 each cap their arsenals of deployed long-range nuclear weapons at 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems.
"I think that everything is possible in the future, including Russia's withdrawal from the treaty," Ryabkov told Russia Today. "But for us it would be an undesirable event."
Russia objects to U.S. plans to through 2020 field increasingly capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe in support of NATO efforts to construct a continent-wide ability to defeat possible ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East. Moscow has demanded a legally binding guarantee from Washington and Brussels that Russian strategic missile forces would not be targeted by the NATO system.
"If something in the missile defense sphere goes in an undesirable way, and we will fail to reach any agreement, it would be irresponsible on our part not to take corresponding measures in the sphere of ... offensive weapons that are the subject of the START 2010 treaty," Ryabkov said. He added that it was "too early" to discuss how Washington might respond to Moscow's withdrawal from the treaty.
The former Cold War foes have for years sought unsuccessfully to reach a compromise on U.S. antimissile plans in Europe. Still, Ryabkov said he was optimistic that "we will be able to get the ball rolling again," ITAR-Tass reported.
"We insist that the solution must meet two basic criteria. First, we need legal guarantees that what is happening in this sphere will not have a negative impact on the Russian nuclear deterrent potential. Second, we need some mechanism with the help of which we would independently verify whether these statements are true," he said.
"These are two fundamental points, our position will not change on them," the deputy minister continued. "If the American side seeks to reach an agreement with Russia, it should meet us halfway on these issues."