Moscow: Russia`s deputy prime minister poured cold water on US President Barack Obama`s proposal to reduce nuclear stockpiles by a third on Wednesday. He said it could not be taken seriously while the United States is developing its missile defence system.
"How can we take seriously this idea about cuts in strategic nuclear potential while the United States is developing its" capabilities to intercept Russia`s weapons, Dmitry Rogozin asked.
"Clearly, (Russia`s) political leadership cannot take these assurances seriously," said Rogozin, who oversees the defence sector and the nuclear industry, according to the state-owned Itar-TASS news agency.
"The offence arms race leads to a defence arms race and vice versa," he said, speaking after a government meeting in Saint Petersburg that focused on Russia`s defence sector.
His remarks followed the call on Russia by the US president in Germany to reduce strategic nuclear weapon stockpiles by up to a third, taking them to the 1,000 weapon mark.
The previous ground-breaking cut was agreed by United States and Russia in 2010 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that Obama signed together with then-president Dmitry Medvedev.
The treaty restricts the former Cold War foes to a maximum of 1,550 deployed war heads each.
Putin and Obama had a frosty meeting at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday, and while Putin made no direct reaction to Obama`s proposal, he said on Wednesday that Russia would not allow "the system of strategic deterrence to be disturbed".
"We cannot allow the balance of the system of strategic deterrence to be disturbed or the effectiveness of our nuclear force to be decreased," Putin said in televised remarks at the Saint Petersburg government meeting.
Disagreements over the missile shield over Europe have plagued Russia-US relations for years. Moscow sees it as directly undermining its own capabilities despite Washington`s assurances that the system focuses on regional threats like Iran and North Korea.