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Russian Experts Play Down Disagreements With USA Over New START

Russian Nuclear Missile on Mobile Launcher Near WoodsMoscow, 3 February: Russian experts prefer not to overdramatize assurances given to senators in US Congress by Barack Obama that the new treaty on reducing strategic offensive weapons is not linked with the USA's missile defence and does not preclude negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons. It is these provisos, which were necessary for the treaty to be approved in the USA, which met with Russia's disapproval.

However, Moscow understands that so far nothing much has been happening and that Obama's statements in yesterday's letter to the senators were intended to simply reassure them.

"There is nothing new in Obama's statements," President of the Politika foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov told RIA Novosti.

"The president just confirmed the compromise he had reached with the senators when he had heroically pushed through the New START treaty," another political analyst and head of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defence Policy Sergey Karaganov said.

According to Deputy Director of the Institute of USA and Canada Viktor Kremenyuk, the US president "is making it clear that the treaty is not a concession to Russia" and does not hamper US programmes that have already been scheduled, including in missile defence.

Tactical nuclear weapons

(Passage omitted) "On the whole, we are not opposed to talks on tactical nuclear weapons, but we have one precondition which the Americans ignore: first of all, all tactical nuclear weapons should be moved to the national territory, because currently the USA has tactical nuclear weapons in at least six countries, whereas Russia keeps them only on its territory," Nikonov said. (Passage omitted)

However, as Viktor Kremenyuk told RIA Novosti, Russia might agree to such talks, but "they will be difficult, since there is an asymmetry in the field of tactical weapons". "And where is a guarantee that other countries with tactical nuclear weapons, France and Britain, will participate in the talks? So far the USA speaks for the entire Western world, but we have heard nothing from Paris or London whether they will participate," Kremenyuk said.

At the same time, he said that it is unclear how a balance of tactical nuclear weapons should be regarded: between Russia and the USA, or between Russia and a united group of countries. "If we are talking about a united group, we agree on bipolarity between Russia and the West. But then how to deal with the Chinese and Korean potentials?" the expert said. According to him, this leads to "a very difficult problem".

"In addition, we are backing our position because we are not a NATO member. The alliance has multiple advantages over Russia in conventional weapons, and we use tactical nuclear weapons as a convenient means to balance the supremacy of NATO in this area," Kremenyuk said.

Karaganov also believes it is possible to discuss the problem of tactical nuclear weapons. "We must understand that by now we have exhausted all the positive potential which was provided by the resetting (of relations between Russia and the USA). We need a new agenda. The resetting addressed the past, it dealt with problems that we had inherited from the past and in fact were not so important," the expert said.

US Senate, he noted, "nearly ruined" the treaty under which the USA would have an opportunity to check Russia's nuclear potential, which suggests that in fact this is not so important for Washington as before.

"We need to educate elites, so that future US-Russian relations even in positive terms are directed forward, not backward," Karaganov said.

In a few weeks, he said, Russian members of the Valday Club, which was created jointly by RIA Novosti and the Russian Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, will publish a report suggesting a new agenda for Russian-US relations.

"In particular, we must reconsider the part of our relationship which is based on mutual deterrence, because deterrence is not a negative but a positive factor - we restrain ourselves and each other from unnecessary actions, although really we do not threaten each other," Karaganov said.

The main thing, in his opinion, is that the Valday Club's report will focus "on areas of cooperation which are demanded by the world and which cannot be resolved separately by the USA or Russia alone".

Linking anti-missile defence and New START Treaty

Despite the fact that the treaty contains a link between missile defence and the New START Treaty, and this principle was extremely important for Russia, Barack Obama, echoing the senators' resolution, said that the development of missile defence systems is not a reason for Russia's withdrawing from the new treaty.

According to the US president's assurances, missile defence systems do not and will not threaten the strategic balance with Russia, and consequently, the USA cannot limit Russia's sovereign rights, according to paragraph 3, chapter 14 of the treaty.

As Obama said, the USA is confident that the continuing improvement and deployment of missile defence systems by the USA is not a reason to question the effectiveness and viability of the START treaty, and nor will it be a reason to justify Russia's withdrawal from the treaty.

"Obama is wrong to think that any kind of anti-missile defence will be acceptable to Russia, and the Russian proviso passed during the ratification in the Duma testifies to the contrary," Vyacheslav Nikonov said. According to him, "we should not worry about this as there have been no radical breakthroughs in the creation of anti-missile systems, nor is there any clarity about how it will evolve".

During its consideration in the Duma, amendments were introduced into the law on ratification of the treaty which reinforce the link between START and missile defence. The first condition under which Russia might withdraw from the treaty is if the USA violates its provisions, and the second - if Washington starts unilaterally developing such missile defence systems that would fundamentally change the status quo in this area, and also would significantly threaten Russia's national security and defence capabilities.

In this regard, Nikonov said that now this matter is being considered and either this will be a missile defence system, created together with Russia, or separately from Russia, but then Russia will develop its own missile defence system. "So far the situation is unclear and we should not worry too much," Nikonov said.

Karaganov also believes that "there is no need to panic, because a missile defence system, which may at some point threaten our deterrence, does not exist, nor is it expected soon, and even if it is expected, we will manage to overcome it dozens of times".

However, according to Viktor Kremenyuk, if the USA builds a strategic missile defence system, Russia might "refuse to reduce its offensive means to compensate for the emergence of US defensive means". (Passage omitted)

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Russia, Nuclear Issues, Missile Defense - Russia News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

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