U.S. missile shield plans currently no threat to Russia - Lavrov
MOSCOW, April 6 (RIA Novosti) - Washington's plans for a missile defense shield do not presently constitute any threat to Moscow's strategic interests, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.
"The plans that the U.S. is currently unilaterally working on have several stages, and at the first stage we are talking about regional systems, about systems that do not damage strategic stability and create no threat for Russia's strategic nuclear forces," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow.
However, he emphasized that Russia did not rule out that the plans could eventually constitute a threat.
"If our observation of the realization of these plans indicates that they are moving to the level of the creation of a strategic missile defense shield and that level is estimated by our military specialists to be creating a risk for Russia's strategic nuclear forces, then we will have the right to use the positions included in the [new arms cut] deal," he went on.
The strategic arms pact stipulates that the number of nuclear warheads is to be reduced to 1,550 on each side, while the number of delivery vehicles must not exceed 800 on each side.
Under the deal, which will have a validity term of ten years unless it is superseded by another strategic arms reduction agreement, strategic offensive weapons are to be based solely on the national territories of Russia and the United States.
The agreement also stipulates that if one of the sides violates the deal another side may withdraw from the treaty.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama are to sign a new strategic arms treaty on Thursday in Prague. The pact will replace the START 1 treaty, which expired on December 5.
In February, Bulgaria and Romania said they were in talks with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration on deploying elements of the U.S. missile shield on their territories from 2015.
The move came after Obama scrapped last September plans by the Bush administration to deploy missile-defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland due to a reassessment of the threat from Iran. Russia fiercely opposed the plans as a threat to its national security.
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