MOSCOW: Russian-American talks on nuclear arms cut treaty have stumbled on U.S. plans to build a global missile shield, said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in April agreed to try and sign a replacement to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) before it expired in December, but missed the deadline.
Asked by a reporter what the problem with the new pact was Mr. Putin said:
“The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one. At the same time missile defences and offensive weapons are closely interrelated issues.”
Mr. Putin reiterated the long-standing Russian position that a global U.S. missile shield would upset the strategic balance of forces between the two most powerful nuclear weapons states, and therefore further weapons cuts must go hand in hand with restrictions on missile defences.
“There is a risk that once they build a [missile] umbrella against our offensive systems our partners would feel totally safe,” he said at a meeting with local journalists in Vladivostok. “The balance will be broken. They will feel free to act with impunity, [and] their aggressiveness will immediately increase both in politics and economy.”
U.S. President Barack Obama in September shelved controversial missile defence bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, but reconfirmed plans to build a global missile shield.
Russia will have to develop new offensive weapons to maintain strategic balance with the U.S., said Mr. Putin.
Washington has rejected Mr. Putin’s demand to include the issue of missile defences in the post-START treaty.