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Russia proposes drafting simpler START arms treaty - 2

Russia has proposed to the United States that the sides draft a simpler version of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a senior Defense Ministry official said Wednesday.
(Adds Buzhinsky's statements, background in paras 13-23)

MOSCOW, July 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has proposed to the United States that the sides draft a simpler version of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a senior Defense Ministry official said Wednesday.

The current START treaty expires December 5, 2009. "In our opinion, we should not allow a vacuum in the sphere of strategic arms control," Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky said.

"So far, the U.S. has not responded."

The START I treaty was signed July 31, 1991, five months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and expires December 5, 2009.

It remains in force as a treaty between the U.S., Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have since totally disarmed their strategic arms capabilities, and the U.S. and Russia reduced the number of delivery vehicles to 1,600, with no more than 6,000 warheads.

The treaty was followed by START II, which banned the use of multiple re-entry vehicles (MIRV) but never entered into force and was later bypassed by the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT), signed by Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in Moscow May 24, 2002.

Buzhinsky also said: "The new treaty should envision restrictions on the deployment of strategic offensive forces only on the state's national territory," adding that the mechanism of control over those armaments and information exchanges should be fixed in the treaty, or otherwise it loses its rationale.

Russia and the U.S. earlier confirmed plans to reduce their strategic arms to a minimum possible level and to develop new agreements on START.

Russia's foreign minister and the U.S. secretary of state said in a statement in June that Russia and the U.S. have confirmed their intention to reduce their strategic offensive arms to a minimal level and to develop relevant agreements.

"Russia and the United States reafirm their intention to continue with the reduction of strategic offensive weapons down to the lowest possible level, which would guarantee national security and alliance obligations," Sergei Lavrov and Condoleezza Rice said in the joint statement, which summarized the results of the summit in Kennebunkport, the U.S.

Buzhinsky also said Russia had welcomed interested countries, including the U.S., to use a radar being built in the southern Russian city of Armavir to monitor Iran's missile activities.

"We proposed to the U.S. -- let us use radars in Gabala [in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan] and Armavir to monitor the missile programs of Iran and other countries. As soon as we track [Iran's] first test launch, we will have at least five years to get prepared to repel this threat - get prepared together," the general told journalists.

At the same time, he said that according to his data, there will be no missile threat from Iran in the next 15-20 years, as Iran is incapable of creating even missiles with a range of 5-6,000 kilometers (3-4,000 miles).

Speaking about the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, Buzhinsky said Russia's suspended participation in the treaty does not necessarily mean increasing Russian forces along its western borders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed July 14 a decree suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), citing extraordinary circumstances that affected the country's security and required immediate measures.

"Russia's moratorium on the CFE does not mean automatically increasing our forces towards the West. We see no necessity in it, and I don't think there is currently any demand," the general said.

He said NATO has still 150 days to revise its position on the CFE, after which Russia's moratorium will enter into force.

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about the emergence of new NATO bases close to its borders and the bloc's reluctance to ratify an updated CFE Treaty, which has regulated the deployment of troops and weapons on the continent since the Cold War.

Moscow considers the original CFE treaty signed in 1990, reducing conventional military forces on the continent, outdated since it does not reflect either the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact or the breakup of the Soviet Union. The CFE treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the CFE until Russia withdraws its troops from their territory. Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr in Moldova.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

The Russian president first proposed imposing a moratorium on the CFE treaty in his state of the nation address in April. Putin said that Russia had honored all its commitments under the CFE treaty ever since ratifying it.

Buzhinsky also said that the adapted CFE treaty should also be revised as it is out of line with today's realities.

He said there are two ways to resolve the issue: western countries should ratify the adapted treaty first, then wait for it to come into force before "modifying the adapted variant", or make a political decision and draw up a new agreement.

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