Tactical nuclear weapons continue to stay on alert in the Barents Region. -We are not even close to discussing the prospect of concluding any agreement in this sphere, says Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister.
Last Friday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed into law the ratification of the New START treaty with the United States, limiting the number of strategic nuclear weapons.
The landmark nuclear arms treaty does however not make any limits on tactical nuclear weapons.
Russia is believed to have some 3,800 tactical nuclear weapons. Many of them are at naval storages on the Kola Peninsula. The exact numbers and locations are not known for public records as long as such nuclear weapons are not accounted for in any international arms agreements.
Strategic nuclear warheads, to be limited by the New START treaty, are deployed on ballistic missiles or long range bombers that can reach targets on other continents. Tactical nuclear warheads have much shorter target range.
When the United States Senate ratified the New START treaty on December 22nd it made clear its strong interest to seek to initiate negotiations with Russia to limit and reduce tactical nuclear weapons.
Work is already underway in Washington to prepare for such dialogue with Russia, according to a statement posted at the portal of U.S. Department of State last week.
Moscow, however, has no rush to discuss the issue with Washington.
- We are not even close to discussing the prospect of concluding any agreement in this sphere, the more so as we don’t know yet how the ratified arms reduction treaty will be implemented, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, said to RIA Novosti on Friday.
- The issue is premature for us, he said.
Russia’s neighbours in the Barents Region do not see the issue premature. Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre says in a statement that he is very pleased with the Russian ratification of the New START Treaty, but adds: - I hope that the new treaty will lead to a broader disarmament process that results in further reductions and includes all categories of nuclear weapons.
Sweden’s Carl Bildt wrote an OpEd in New York Times last year where he urged Moscow to make commitment to the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from areas adjacent to European Union member states, especially areas like the Kola Peninsula, where according to Carl Bildt “there are still substantial numbers of these weapons.”