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U.S. plans to expand and deploy elements of its missile defense system around the world threaten the start of a new arms race
U.S. plans to expand and deploy elements of its missile defense system around the world threaten the start of a new arms race, a Russian expert said Wednesday. In January, the U.S. announced plans to deploy a radar facility in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns. Moscow has strongly opposed the U.S. plans, saying they would threaten Russia's security and destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe. Sergei Rogov, head of the Institute of the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said that today strategic stability in the world is maintained by treaties limiting strategic offensive weapons and banning strategic missile defenses, which are due to expire in the near future. "START I strategic arms reduction treaty will expire in two years. START II treaty will die without even coming into force and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty will expire in six years," Rogov said. "Eventually, for the first time in 40 years Russia and the United States will have no treaties limiting offensive and defensive weapons. This would mean a game without rules." START II that followed START I, although ratified, has never been activated. In June 2002 Russia withdrew from START II shortly after the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty. According to the START II treaty signed in 1993, the sides should have reduced their strategic arms arsenals by two thirds by 2003 against January 1993 levels. Russia and the U.S. signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) in May 2002, envisioning a reduction in the nuclear arsenals of each side to 1,700-2,200 by the end of 2012. Rogov said that under such conditions the U.S. deployment of its missile shield in the world basically means that the country has begun a process, which has no restrictions and which "Americans will use to achieve absolute military superiority or, in other words, it would lead to a new arms race." The expert said that against all this background U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Moscow this week was extremely important, as "Americans understood that it is necessary to negotiate instead of presenting Russia with a fait accompli." Gates, on his first visit to Russia in his new capacity, said Monday Washington was not ready to sign a long-term strategic or offensive arms limitation deal with Moscow. He also said the West should not be expected to ratify the adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, a critical arms control deal in Europe, until Russia pulls its troops out from ex-Soviet republics, namely Georgia and Moldova. Rogov also said that since the end of the Cold War no principle changes have taken place in Russian and U.S. relations in the nuclear sector. "We are still hostages of mutual nuclear intimidation," he said adding that both countries still have a huge nuclear potential, which is unnecessary when the countries are really partners on the international arena. The expert said that both countries have come close to a threshold, when relations between Russia and the United States could become confrontational. "We are on the brink of a new 'Cold War' if one looks closely at our [Russian-U.S.] present day relations," he said adding that if the situation did not change, negative tendencies in relations between both countries will continue to develop. "I do not rule out that at the 2008 presidential elections in the United States both Republicans and Democrats may bring forward a thesis on the need for a Russia containment policy," Rogov said.
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