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Too Soon To Discuss Tactical Nuclear Arms With USA - Russian Senior Official

Russian Tactical Nuclear Missile and Mobile LauncherRussia and the USA are not even close to discussing the question of reducing tactical nuclear arms, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said. He was speaking to Russian journalists in Washington on 28 January, as reported by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti on 29 January.

Ryabkov said: "We are not even close to discussing the prospects of concluding an agreement in this field; moreover, we do not yet know how the implementation of the ratified START treaty will go. Until we see how the obligations taken within its framework are being carried out and to what extent the sides are acting in accordance with its letter and spirit, this question is altogether irrelevant and premature. Time is needed to at least acquire the initial experience in the field of implementing the START treaty.

"Russia suggests tackling this issue, above all, from the angle of resolving the well-known problem of the existence of US tactical weapons in Europe. These weapons are of strategic nature for us since they could be used against our territory. I understand that this may sound somewhat archaic, taking into account the path that has been tread in relations between our countries, but, in any case, the military operate the notions of potentials and the structure for receiving and the possible quick return of such (US) weapons to Europe must be eliminated.

"The main issue for us is the question of taking into account other factors... (ellipsis as published) the stability and safety of nuclear weapons in the hands of an entire group of countries apart from Russia and the USA - the states of the nuclear five and countries that are not signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. There is also a factor of increasing significance in the form of US plans to create a global missile defence system, the prospects of taking weapons into space, the imbalance in conventional forces. All of this is interconnected.

"Our current priority is to restore the viability of the regime to control conventional forces in Europe. On the one hand, this question has been old and unsolvable for a long time, but, on the other hand, chances of making progress there are appearing... (ellipsis as published) There are a number of agreements, including some agreements in the military field, which are being considered as projects for the upcoming period. It is too soon to address the question of tactical nuclear weapons and I do not think that we will be ready to deal with it until we solve the others."

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