Senior Russian officials on Wednesday signaled that they have less interest than President Obama in carrying out further reductions to Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear arsenals, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Obama in his high-profile Wednesday speech in Berlin called for the United States and Russia to open new arms control talks on potentially agreeing to reduce deployed long-range nuclear arms by as much as one-third. As the New START accord already requires each nation by 2018 to cap its stockpile of fielded warheads at 1,550, under Obama's proposal a new ceiling could become roughly 1,000 deployed strategic warheads apiece.
Moscow is unable to "indefinitely and bilaterally talk with the United States about cuts and restrictions on nuclear weapons in a situation where a whole number of other countries are expanding their nuclear and missile potentials," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said to RIA Novosti. "Before discussing the necessity of a further reduction of nuclear weapons we need to arrive at an acceptable solution of the (missile defense) problem."
Russia objects to the Obama administration's plan through the next five years to field increasingly capable missile interceptors in Europe. The Kremlin has not accepted the White House insistence that the antimissile systems are solely aimed at protecting against possible Iranian missile attacks, and is demanding a legally binding accord that would govern the interceptors' usage. Numerous rounds of U.S.-Russia talks on missile defense have been unable to resolve the core differences.
"The U.S.A. is continuing to deploy its strategic missile defense system," President Vladimir Putin said in a Wednesday speech to weapons firms, adding that the Russian military should consider planning for how to withstand a possible "disarming or decapitation strike," the BBC reported.
Considering that the antimissile issue is not yet resolved, Moscow is taking Obama's concept for talks with a grain of salt, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was reported by ITAR-Tass to have said on Thursday.
"How can we possibly take this thesis about cutting the strategic nuclear potentials seriously, when the U.S.A. is building up the potential to intercept this strategic potential? Obviously, the top political leadership cannot take these assurances seriously," Rogozin said to journalists.
Putin's counselor for foreign issues, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters on Wednesday that the Kremlin would not have a formal answer to the U.S. president's proposition until it has had more time to review it, the Washington Post reported. Still, Russia will not accept any action that would result in "a violation of the balance in the system of strategic deterrence or a decline in the efficiency of Russian nuclear forces."
Ushakov also reaffirmed Moscow's position that any negotiations on additional reductions to long-range nuclear weapons should be expanded to include the other major holders of such armaments, the Wall Street Journal reported.