Wednesday 18 October 2017

Moscow rejects Obama's call for further nuclear arms cuts

Roberta Rampton Berlin

PRESIDENT Obama has used a speech in Berlin to call on Russia to revive the push for a world without nuclear weapons.

Mr Obama offered to cut deployed nuclear arsenals by a third, however Moscow immediately rejected his proposal.

Speaking in Berlin where John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan gave rousing Cold War speeches, Mr Obama urged Russia to help build on the "New START" treaty that requires both countries to cut stockpiles of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 each by 2018.

The speech, a day after Mr Obama and President Vladimir Putin disagreed publicly about Syria at the G8 Summit in the North, was given a frosty reception by Moscow, which said it could "not take such proposals seriously" while Washington was beefing up its own anti-missile defences.

"After a comprehensive review I have determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third," Mr Obama said.

"I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures," he said at the Brandenburg Gate, which once overlooked the Berlin Wall that divided the communist East and the capitalist West.

Russia says US plans for anti-missile defences harm the goal of arms reduction by requiring Moscow to hold more missiles or lose its deterrent capability.

"How can we take the idea of strategic nuclear weapons reductions seriously when the United States is building up its ability to intercept these strategic nuclear weapons?" Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

"These things clearly do not go together," he added.

Mr Obama's vision of a "world without nuclear weapons" set out in a speech in Prague in 2009, three months into his presidency, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. But his mixed results so far have fuelled criticism that the prize may have been premature.

Reluctant

Experts said reducing the nuclear arsenal makes strategic and economic sense.

But Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Mr Obama faces major obstacles "including a recalcitrant Russia and a reluctant Senate".

Mr Putin, speaking in St Petersburg minutes before Mr Obama's speech, made no direct comment but voiced concern about US missile defences and high-precision weapons.

Moscow sees nuclear deterrents as the safeguard of national security. It is worried about the West's superior conventional weapons and NATO plans for a missile defence system in Europe.

The chief of the Russian military's general staff appears reluctant to negotiate a new nuclear deal, and Russian foreign policy expert Fyodor Lukyanov described Obama's desire to "go to zero globally" as totally unacceptable in Russia.

Irish Independent

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