US security adviser in Moscow nuclear arms talks
Despite the narrowing timeframe, both sides expressed optimism at the end of a day of negotiations Thursday between U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones and Russia’s foreign minister and National Security Council head.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in televised remarks he was “sure” Jones’ “successful” visit would help forge a new treaty. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “intensive efforts” would be required to reach an accord but he struck a generally optimistic tone.
On leaving the Foreign Ministry, Jones told The Associated Press that the two had a “very good discussion on a number of bilateral issues,” without elaborating.
President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev agreed at a Moscow summit in July to cut the number of nuclear warheads each possesses to between 1,500 and 1,675 within seven years.
But the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation recently noted several sticking points that may take negotiations into the 11th hour.
The obstacles include a divergence on the number of so-called delivery vehicles — a reference to missiles and bombers. Washington has reportedly proposed a limit of 1,100 such weapons platforms, while Russia wants less than half, a discrepancy too great to forge an agreement, the center concluded.
Other hurdles may include the issue of whether to include stockpiled weapons — those not operationally deployed — in the warhead count. The U.S. says no, while Russia would prefer blanket inclusion.
The U.S. has sought to separate the issue of arms reduction with plans to station a missile defense system in Central Europe, near Russia’s western fringe, but Moscow — a bitter opponent of the idea — is unlikely to overlook them.
Referring to arms reduction and missile defense, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed “an objective interconnection between these two platforms of strategic stability has not disappeared,” according to comments published Thursday in Russian daily Vremya Novostei. “It is wrong not to recognize this.”
Jones’ visit comes as Iran was to respond to a U.N.-drafted plan on shipping the country’s low-enriched uranium to Russia for further processing. The plan proposes a curtailment of any covert nuclear arms making abilities by Iran. Jones was expected to discuss the matter with Moscow.