The nuclear disarmament treaty between the US and Russia hasn't even been signed, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday said Russia would soon outline the terms for possible withdrawal from it.
"Russia will have the right to opt out of the treaty if … the U.S. strategic missile defense begins to significantly affect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces," Lavrov said, according to the Associated Press.
White House officials downplayed the comments.
“There’s nothing newsworthy here,” said one senior administration official. “Any nation reserves the right to pull out of a treaty.”
Another senior administration official said that “all treaties have such provisions,” and noted that President Bush used that prerogative to get out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
US plans for missile defense were a sticking point in negotiations over the new treaty. After initially agreeing to separate the issue from negotiations over nuclear weapons and launchers, Russia in recent months pushed to include the missile defense system in the treaty. It got to the point that, as first reported by ABC News, President Obama threatened to walk away.
Ultimately Russian president Dmitri Medvedev blinked, and the treaty will be signed Thursday in Prague, the Czech Republic.
Lavrov said today that Russia had “noted that the U.S. (missile defense) system won't have a strategic capacity in its early stages. We shall see what will happen next. When and if this system gets a strategic capacity, we shall see whether it creates risks for our strategic nuclear forces."