Nuclear talks put on hold

Moscow and Washington might be working out a new non-proliferation deal, but Russia has no intention of reducing its nuclear arsenal until the US clarifies its anti-missile defense plans in Europe.

Since President Barack Obama came to power, many of Washington’s foreign policies have become a little bit more flexible than those of the previous administration, and have not been pushing so hard with the project of creating an American anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe.

The new round of Russia-US non-proliferation talks are due to start next month. But in an important announcement made earlier, Nikolay Makarov, the head of Russia’s General Staff, insisted that Russia is not going to make any changes to its nuclear armed forces until the situation with global security, including the possible deployment of an American anti-missile shield in Europe issue, become clear to Moscow.

He stressed that Russia’s nuclear forces are one of the cornerstones of the army and provide security and stability on a global scale.

There has been no official reaction from Washington yet, but the prolongation of non-proliferation treaty to the end of 2009 and a reduction of nuclear weapons were announced as top-priority tasks at the first meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in London earlier this year.

There has been quite a lot of co-operation between Russia and the US, including a “Megatons to Megawatts” project that is aimed at transforming the weapons-grade, highly-enriched uranium of Russian warheads to low-enriched uranium, suitable for use as a fuel for commercial nuclear power plants in the US.

Nikolay Makarov touched on several other issues, and one of them was Georgia. He said that today, the Georgian Army is clearly better equipped than at the time of the conflict with Russia in South Ossetia last August. This comes after NATO has just conducted month-long military exercises in Georgia, which aroused fierce criticism from Moscow.

Makarov reiterated that Georgia had taken part in similar war games shortly before it invaded South Ossetia.

Makarov also announced plans for sending two Russian army units to Belorussia within the nearest future to conduct pre-planned exercises with the Belorussian army in the fall 2009.

New AMD strategy under review

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO, believes that by the time the American president comes to Russia in July, his administration might have finished reviewing its AMD strategy.

“The Obama administration is reviewing its strategy. We are aware of this work and we welcome this work. Many American scientists are rather skeptical about a third missile defense site which, in simple terms, consists of interceptive missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech republic,” Rogozin explained.

“They are all saying that this project is of no use to Americans, both from a political and military point of view. Thus, we hope that by the time Barack Obama comes to Russia, which is in early July, these plans will be formulated and will be presented to the Russian side during his talks with President Medvedev,” he added.