Don't tinker with START, Russia warns US
Russia said Monday that any attempts by US Republicans to "fix" the new START treaty would spell the end of the historic nuclear disarmament pact between the two former Cold War foes.
The US Senate was expected to hold a vote on the nuclear arms control pact Tuesday despite a last-minute bid by Republicans to change the text's wording to make sure it does not block the deployment of a missile shield in Europe.
Russia has resisted the systems as potentially harmful to its own nuclear deterrence and said Monday that any tinkering with the wording would effectively kill the pact.
"The START agreement, which was drafted on the basis of strict parity, completely meets the national interests of both Russia and the United States," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Interfax news agency.
"It cannot be reopened, becoming the subject of new negotiations."
US President Barack Obama has argued that the agreement not only makes the world safer but also improves ties with Russia and bolsters the position of President Dmitry Medvedev -- seen as a modernising force in Washington.
Leading Democrats said Sunday they believed they had enough votes to pass the treaty and slash both sides' arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads.
Senators this weekend rejected two Republican amendments to strip out language in the preamble tying offensive nuclear weapons to defensive systems.
But Republican Minority Whip Jon Kyl said Sunday that "this treaty needs to be fixed."
He and other Republicans suggested delaying the vote until next year -- an idea rejected by the Obama administration amid fears that an even presence of Rebublicans in Congress next year would make passage even more difficult.
Lavrov encouraged Washington to move quickly but appeared to put no time limit on a final vote.
"We would prefer not to think about the negative consequences" of this treaty not being passed," Russia's top diplomat told the agency.
"We expect the ratification process to be completed in near future."
© 2010 AFP