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BMD Focus: Hope for START Part One

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by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Dec 17, 2008
Senior Russian diplomats are pledging to cooperate with the incoming Obama administration to conclude a far-reaching nuclear arms reduction treaty by the end of next year.

Statements to this effect were made in Moscow Monday by a senior Russian diplomat. They mark a dramatic U-turn from the eight years of accumulating gridlock and growing Russian resentment toward the Bush administration over its determination to bring the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and to deploy Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors in Central Europe as a defense against possible future-armed Iranian nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In preparation for their hopes of major concessions -- especially on the GBI bases issue -- from incoming U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Obama's choice as secretary of state, the Russians Monday concluded preparatory talks with American diplomats to prepare the way for serious negotiations on a new agreement to replace START-1, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

After the talks ended, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a news conference in Moscow that the Kremlin was anticipating within the next 12 months achieving the ambitious agenda of agreeing with the United States on a START successor treaty and also reaching agreement with Obama over the proposed BMD bases to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"We managed to finish our joint work with the outgoing U.S. administration with satisfactory results and to build a definite base for continuing work next year, bearing in mind that we need to draft a legally binding agreement to replace the START-1 treaty and find a compromise on the U.S. missile shield in Europe by the end of next year," Ryabkov said, according to RIA Novosti.

Replacing or renewing START-1 has become a growing concern of arms control experts, because the treaty is scheduled to expire at the end of 2009.

Ryabkov acknowledged that the latest round of talks this month in Moscow had proved as futile as all the others the Kremlin has held with the Bush administration over the past few years. But he said Russian policymakers expected much more progress with the new administration after it took office.

"We certainly hope that the effectiveness of this dialogue with the new U.S. administration will increase," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

In accord with the provisions of START-1, RIA Novosti noted that the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have long since dismantled all their nuclear weapons or sent them to Russia. The United States and Russia have mutually cut back their active thermonuclear arsenals to a ceiling of missiles and a maximum of 6,000 warheads to be carried on them.

However, Russia under both President Dmitry Medvedev and his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, has consistently said that building the GBI missile base in Poland, with its accompanying radar base in the Czech Republic, would be the deal-breaker for any agreement on START-2, even though those bases are designed to defend against a future threat from Iran and are not designed to be used against Russia.

The Kremlin is also demanding that START-2 has far lower and more rigorous limits on the numbers of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that either Russia or the United States will have.

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Russia wants to test Obama on missile defense: Rood
Washington (AFP) Dec 17, 2008
Russia has hardened its stance toward US plans for a missile shield in an apparent bid to "test the mettle" of incoming President Barack Obama, US arms negotiator John Rood said Wednesday.

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