US, Russia Continue START Talks as Russia Vows to Develop Nuclear Arsenal

By Lindsey Ellerson

Jan 11, 2010 5:42pm

ABC News' Alexander Marquardt in Russia reports:

Both the United States and Russia said Monday that negotiations over a replacement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) continue,  giving no indication as to when a new treaty could be expected to replace the one that expired December 5.

“We continue to work with our Russian counterparts on trying to find an agreement that, quite frankly, that works for both sides,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Talks between US and Russian negotiators are set to resume in Geneva after Russia celebrates the Orthodox holiday of Old New Year on January 14.

"The negotiations go on, and the delegates are concentrating on the soonest achievement of final agreements concerning the new treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive armaments," a Russian Foreign Ministry source told Interfax on Monday.

In December, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev said they were "quite close" to an agreement, that some “technical details” still needed to be sorted out.

But comments by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin just before the New Year indicate that the two countries may be farther from a deal than their leaders let on.

“What is the problem?" Putin responded on December 29 when asked why a deal wasn't yet done. "The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one.”

"By building such an umbrella over themselves, our [US] partners could feel themselves fully secure and will do whatever they want, which upsets the balance," he added.

The US has long tried to separate strategic arms talks from discussions over missile defense, apparently with little success as Putin reiterated Moscow’s plans to continue to develop new nuclear weapons to offset US plans.  Moscow welcomed Obama's September decision to abandon President George W. Bush's proposed missile shield in based in Poland and the Czech Republic, but it's clear that suspicion lingers over Obama's plans for a more sea-based European missile shield.

"To preserve the balance, we must develop offensive weapons systems, not missile defense systems as the United States is doing," he said. "The problems of missile defense and offensive arms are very closely linked."

Russia has been developing the sea-based Bulava ballistic missile and the land-based RS-24, both capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.

"Let the Americans hand over all their information on missile defense and we are ready to hand over all the information on offensive weapons systems," said Putin.

- Alexander Marquardt

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