August 24, 2012 / 5:13 PM / 6 years ago

Putin says Russian nuclear cuts to hinge on U.S. missile shield

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow is open to the idea of new nuclear arms cuts on a reciprocal basis and if Washington addresses its concerns about a U.S.-led missile defence system in Europe, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on inter-ethnic relations in Saransk, the capital of the Republic of Mordovia, August 24, 2012. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Michael Klimentyev/Pool

Putin said preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was “a key issue on the world agenda” and said Russian compliance with the 2010 New START treaty, which cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, was proof of Moscow’s commitment to disarmament.

“Russia is open to new joint initiatives in this area,” Putin said, in a written address sent to a meeting of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War being held in Hiroshima, Japan.

“At the same time, their realisation is clearly possible only on a fair mutual basis and if all factors affecting international security and strategic stability are taken into account,” he said.

Those factors included what he called “the unilateral and totally unlimited deployment of a global U.S. missile defence system” as well as the possibility of the deployment of weapons in space and a lack of parity in conventional weapons in Europe.

U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in Europe, which Washington has already begun to deploy, have been a major irritant to U.S.-Russia relations despite President Barack Obama’s decision to scale the original plans back.

Washington says the shield is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran and will pose no risk to Russia.

But Moscow says the system’s interceptors will be able to destroy Russian warheads in flight by about 2018, upsetting the post-Cold War balance of power and weakening Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

In a foreign policy decree issued on May 7, the day his inauguration ceremony for a six-year presidential term took place, Putin reiterated Moscow’s demands for firm U.S. guarantees that the shield is not directed against Russia.

Four days earlier, the chief-of-staff of Russia’s armed forces said Moscow could carry out pre-emptive strikes on future missile defence installations in Europe to protect its security.

The European system will include interceptor missile installations in Poland and Romania and a radar station in Turkey as well as interceptors and radars on ships based in the Mediterranean Sea.

Reporting By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Andrew Osborn

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