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STRATEGIC TALKS

The Obama administration, in its drive to support disarmament advocates, is set to begin a new round of strategic arms talks with the Russians this month.

U.S. officials said the new talks are being dubbed “strategic stability talks” and will focus on trying to cut deployed and non deployed tactical nuclear arms, a task widely viewed by experts as impossible to verify, as well as further cuts in U.S. strategic weapons.

The new arms talks were announced Wednesday and will be led by Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control, who has led the administration’s failed missile defense talks with Moscow.

Also involved will be Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for arms verification.

The talks are set to begin Dec. 14 in Washington, and the Russian delegation will be headed by Deputy Defense Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

U.S. officials close to the issue said the new effort is based on the administration’s reading of the Senate resolution ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The resolution calls for working with Russia to reach an agreement that would “address the disparity between the [U.S. and Russian] tactical nuclear weapons stockpiles.”

Russia has an estimated 2,800 tactical nuclear arms. In the past decade or so, the United States has cut its 4,000 tactical nuclear arms in Europe to about 200.

Critics of the impending talks say the administration is misreading the resolution by seeking additional strategic arms cuts, something that is not stated in the resolution. It says only that further strategic cuts must be done under formal treaty powers and not through an executive agreement that would not require Senate approval.

Arms-control officials fear the administration, in its effort to reach a new agreement, will cave in to Russian demands to include limits on U.S. missile defenses as part of the new talks.

Russia last week announced plans for military countermeasures to U.S. missile defenses in Europe after the U.S. rejected Moscow’s demands for a legally binding agreement limiting the defenses.

The new arms initiative comes amid Russian complaints about U.S. missile defenses, which the Kremlin insists are secretly meant to counter Moscow’s strategic arsenal.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that a new radar was activated in Kaliningrad and threatened new deployments of offensive missiles in western and southern Russia.

“I can’t think of a worse time for any government to engage in talks with Russia on strategic stability,” a senior Senate aide said.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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