"[Barack] Obama supports sharp reductions in nuclear arsenals and I believe that Russia and the U.S. may sign in the summer or fall of 2009 a new treaty that would replace START-1, which expires in December 2009," Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute of the U.S. and Canada, told a news conference in RIA Novosti.
The effective Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on July 31, 1991, five months before the U.S.S.R. collapsed.
Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have since disposed of all their nuclear weapons or transferred them to Russia, and the U.S. and Russia have reduced the number of delivery vehicles to 1,600 each, with no more than 6,000 warheads. The treaty is set to expire on December 5, 2009.
Rogov said, however, that the signing of a new nuclear disarmament deal would only be possible if Washington abandoned its plans to place elements of a U.S. missile shield in central Europe.
"I am certain you are familiar with the statements made by President Medvedev yesterday. I think that Russia has expressed its position clearly - we are ready to make new steps in the sphere of disarmament, but we are waiting for the U.S. to abandon its attempts to surround Russia with a missile defense ring," the analyst said.
Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security.
Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday in his first state of the nation address that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in its western exclave of Kaliningrad "to neutralize if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe."
Russia also insists that any agreement replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty should be a legally binding document and must set lower ceilings not only for the number of nuclear warheads, but also for their delivery vehicles.
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Ukraine has never been a nuclear weapons-state and never had control over the nuclear weapons that were located on its territory following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It doesn’t have the research, technical or industrial capacity to develop and produce nuclear weapons in the short term.