As American and Russian diplomats continue to fruitlessly debate the basic terms of a new arms treaty, the Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Colonel-General Nikolay Solovtsov offered something of an olive branch, suggesting his nation was willing to abandon weapons programs if President-elect Obama agrees to abandon their missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The Russian government has expressed repeated concern about the missile defense program, insisting it is direct at them. The United States claims the interceptor missiles are meant to shoot down Iranian missiles during a hypothetical attack of Europe, but given the maximum range of Iran’s best missile falls well short of the sites the claim doesn’t carry much weight in Russia.
Col-Gen. Solovtsov indicated that if the US backs off the plan, “Russia will not need to finance a number of highly expensive programs.” An analyst for the Moscow-based Institute for Political and Military Analysis believes the expense of the programs was a serious factor in the offer, citing the serious financial crisis hitting Russia as the price of oil continues to drop.
The more formal arms control talks don’t have nearly such a straightforward path to success, as the two sides can’t even agree on which weapons should be counted in the deal. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov hit out at the Bush Administration’s insistence that the treaty should only count “operationally deployed” warheads, which he said would allow for a “covert buildup of strategic weapons.”