08:52 GMT +323 September 2017

    Russia-U.S. arms cuts deal to include missile defense link - Lavrov

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    MOSCOW, March 9 (RIA Novosti) - A new Russia-U.S. treaty on strategic arms reductions will link offensive and defensive armaments, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

    The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1), the backbone of post-Cold War arms control, expired on December 5, and there is no formal replacement to it yet.

    "This link [between missile defense and strategic arms] will of course be reflected," Lavrov told journalists.

    Asked what kind of link it will be, the Russian minister said it will be "legally binding," recalling that the Russian and U.S. presidents confirmed the link last summer and told the two countries' negotiators to include it in the document.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said early in March that Russia and the United States are close to completing negotiations on the new treaty, and expressed the hope that the document could be signed soon. The talks were to resume in Geneva on Tuesday after a 10-day break.

    Russia and the United States have been negotiating a replacement to START 1 since the two countries' presidents met in April last year, but finalizing a document has dragged on, with U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe a particular sticking point.

    Lavrov has repeatedly made statements suggesting that a new nuclear arms cuts deal should be linked to Washington's missile plans in Eastern Europe.

    Some experts say, however, that the Russian demand will probably not be satisfied as the U.S. Senate is unlikely to ratify any document containing a formal linkage between the arms cuts and the missile shield.

    U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped plans last year for interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic pursued by his predecessor as protection against possible Iranian strikes in an apparent move to ease Russian security concerns.

    In February, however, Romania and Bulgaria said they were in talks with the Obama administration on deploying elements of the U.S. missile shield on their territories from 2015, triggering an angry reaction from Moscow.

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