- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2010

MOSCOW — The United States and Russia have agreed that a new arms control treaty will mention a link between offensive nuclear arms and defenses against them, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow said Thursday.

Ambassador John Beyrle’s statement in his blog post could signal a potential breakthrough in the U.S.-Russian talks on a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev linked the two issues in a statement in July, but Washington had resisted Russia’s push for an explicit connection between them in a successor to the treaty.

Moscow and Washington hoped to sign a new treaty by the end of December, but talks have dragged on. The delay apparently has been caused by Russia’s deep suspicions about U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe. Washington has said it is a reaction to Iran’s missile threat, but Moscow has seen it as a potential threat to its security.

Mr. Beyrle’s statement indicated that the U.S. stance has shifted. “Our presidents have agreed that the treaty will contain a provision on the interconnection between strategic offensive and defensive weapons,” he said in his Russian-language blog.

Still, any missile defense restrictions likely would complicate the treaty’s approval by the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Beyrle’s statement apparently reflects an attempt by Washington to overcome Russia’s suspicions of the U.S. missile defense plans.

It follows Tuesday’s comments by Russia’s top military officer, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, who said that those plans are a threat to Russian national security and have slowed down progress on the prospective new arms deal with Washington.

Gen. Makarov’s comments were the strongest yet on the revamped U.S. missile effort and showed that the arms control talks are in serious trouble, despite assurances to the contrary from the White House and the Kremlin.

Mr. Obama’s decision to scrap Bush administration plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic pleased the Kremlin, which fiercely opposed those plans as a threat.

But Russia has become increasingly suspicious in recent weeks of a revamped plan by the Obama administration to place sea- and land-based interceptors around Europe. Romania last week approved a proposal to place anti-ballistic-missile interceptors in the country as part of the revamped American missile shield.

Mr. Beyrle said in his blog post that the U.S. plan is intended to fend off the existing and emerging threats from the Middle East and wouldn’t pose any threat to Russia.

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