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Russian pundits link new START treaty to US missile defence in Europe

Moscow, 30 June: A new strategic arms reduction treaty (START) is unlikely to be signed unless it is linked to the problem of the deployment of American missile defence in Europe, according to Gleb Pavlovskiy, head of the Effective Policy Foundation.

"Of course, linking the START issue and the deployment of elements of the American missile defence system in Europe is natural since missile defence always reduces the effectiveness of the missile potential of another country. In my view, unless these are linked, no agreement is possible. Such an agreement would be ambiguous and unstable," Pavlovskiy told Interfax on Tuesday (30 June).

"The START issue is not so much a problem for Russia as a quality and reliability test for the USA as a participant in the process of the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons," the expert said.

At the same time, he stressed that it had not been Russia but George Bush Junior that had brought the disarmament process to a stop and therefore, in his opinion, it is not Russia but America that should prove its ability to reach an agreement.

"The START-1 Treaty expires in December, so Russia will do everything to speed up the process of reaching a new agreement, but the main effort is needed from America, not Russia. The Americans need to prove that they take disarmament problems seriously. If they are not ready to link them (arms reduction treaty and missile defence in Europe), this means they are not interested in a treaty and this means that Obama is a hostage to his entourage and cannot take real decisions," Pavlovskiy said.

According to him, Barack Obama is a new leader who is free from the legacy of the Cold War but people who are drawing up policy towards Russia in his administration are "the same people who were scheming against Gorbachev and Yeltsin, in other words these are people with old ideas about politics".

At the same time Pavlovskiy stressed that, even if the USA shows no desire to link the signing of a new START treaty with the problem of missile defence, one should continue the talks in a friendly and respectful manner, without rushing things.

"One should support Obama's intention to go back to the regime of international agreements which at the time President George Bush abandoned unilaterally. In this sense one should rush things because Obama might come under strong pressure from some extreme circles in America and could suffer a defeat, and we would have to deal with very different people. Therefore one should be in a rush but, naturally, not at the expense of the strategic security of the Russian Federation," the analyst said.

He recalled that the USA was linking the deployment of missile defence elements in Europe to Iran's nuclear problem, noting that "Russia does not have the same problems with Iran as the USA". "Iran is definitely not our main problem. But, of course, there is a problem with Iran's behaviour, and Russia is ready to take part in international efforts to monitor Iran's nuclear programme," the political analyst said.

"The funniest thing would be if, once again, they try to sell us a promise to abolish the Jackson-Vanik amendment. It was first mentioned by President Ronald Reagan in his dialogue with Mikhail Gorbachev 20 years ago. Since then every American president has been coming to Moscow with a promise to abolish this amendment. I suspect that there is no longer any point in it and Russia could insist that the amendment should be abolished without any talks," he said, adding that for the time being the president does not want to initiate the issue, fearing problems in the Congress.

Therefore, Pavlovskiy said, one should not expect too much from the talks. At the same time he believes that Russia should provide support to Obama "since there is a positive movement and friendly gestures, and one should welcome them rather than behave like a cold fish".

In the opinion of the political analyst, the main issue at the talks between the US and Russian leaders will be not the possibility of a new START treaty being signed but the "question of whether America is ready to see Russia as a partner in common policy in different areas, but this question won't be put on paper".

In particular, America wants Russia to support US resolutions at the UN, he said. "The question arises: does America see Russia as a force that, together with America and Europe, shapes the position of the international community, or whether America just leaves a place in the corner for us to put our signature," he said.

For his part, Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politics Foundation, expressed the view that Dmitriy Medvedev and Barack Obama do have a chance to reach an agreement in Moscow on the parameters of a new START treaty.

"Moscow does not plan to sign a new START treaty but wants to define the parameters of this treaty. In principle there is a chance of this but it cannot be said that the sides are doomed to success," Nikonov told Interfax on Tuesday.

According to him, each side will have certain negotiating positions that might not suit the other side. "It is already clear on which parameters there is agreement, on which parameters there can be agreement and on which parameters there is no agreement. The most difficult talks will be on missile defence and on the retaliatory potential," the political analyst said.

According to Nikonov, for the Russian side the number of warheads and their delivery vehicles, the structure of the nuclear triad and control over the disarmament process are of fundamental importance.

In the opinion of the political analyst, as regards the number of warheads, a certain preliminary agreement already exists. "At least, a statement by President Medvedev to the effect that we can go below the figure stipulated by the Moscow Treaty (Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty) shows that there is such an agreement," the analyst said.

But, he said, there is the problem of the so-called retaliatory potential which had not been discussed at previous talks. "This is the problem of not deployed but stored warheads which the USA did not want to take into account during the reduction. As far as I understand, this issue still remains," Nikonov said.

Another issue is the number of delivery vehicles in the triad (the nuclear triad consists of intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missiles on submarines and strategic aviation - Interfax).

"President Medvedev said that their number could be radically cut but the triad structure could become a stumbling block," Nikonov said. According to him, at the previous stages of the talks the American side was insisting on reducing those components in which Russia had an advantage or which comprised our biggest might - above all, intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"If an agreement is reached that Russia has a triad structure which it regards as acceptable for itself, in this case a radical reduction in delivery vehicles is possible," the president of the Politics Foundation said. Nikonov is convinced that Russia will definitely link the discussion on START to the issue of the deployment of American missile defence in Europe, although the USA is not yet ready to include missile defence issues on the agenda of the talks.

Another issue which the negotiators will have to discuss and to which they will have to find a mutually acceptable solution is the mechanisms of control over the disarmament process. According to the political analyst, they were covered in the Moscow Treaty and they should be preserved but, on the other hand, they include mechanisms of unilateral control on the part of the USA. Therefore, he said, these mechanisms should be more balanced.

Nikonov also believes that Georgia's and Ukraine's prospects for joining NATO, a possible toughening of sanctions against Iran, as well as all the issues in Russian-American relations, including trade cooperation, cooperation in the energy sphere and Russia-NATO relations, will definitely be raised at the two leaders' meeting. In his view, the problems of European security, the situation in the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea, and other issues, will also be discussed.