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U.S. refusal to prolong START-I fatal mistake - Russian experts - 1

22:06 02/08/2007
(Adds last two paras)

MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - A decision not to renew a major nuclear arms reduction treaty may have dire consequences for U.S. foreign policy and the entire world, Russian experts said Thursday.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I) was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on July 31, 1991, five months before the union collapsed, and remains in force between the U.S., Russia, and three other ex-Soviet states.

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, with no more than 6,000 warheads. The treaty is set to expire on December 5, 2009.

General James E. Cartwright, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said Wednesday that the refusal to prolong the START-I Treaty would allow the United States to conduct quick and pinpointed strikes anywhere in the world, which is crucial for an effective fight against global terrorism.

"With such statements, the U.S. officials continue to promote their policy of forced global leadership," Sergei Markov, the head of the Institute of Political Research, a Kremlin-connected Moscow think tank, told RIA Novosti.

"All that we see today is that a global superpower is essentially ruled by extremists who commit catastrophic mistakes throwing the world into risky ventures," Markov said, adding that in the U.S. this group of radical extremists is represented by the so-called Neoconservatives, led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, said the new initiatives proposed by the U.S. military were a logical continuation of the policies conducted by the current Washington administration.

"Frankly, it is a consistent U.S. policy [at present] to abandon all treaties that bind them by obligation to anyone," the expert said.

"It is difficult to predict the future of the START-I treaty. The U.S. administration will probably be reshuffled soon," he said, adding that if a Democratic candidate became president the U.S. would "not continue destroying all [international] treaties."

Sergei Markov also agreed that changes in the future U.S. administration after the 2008 presidential election would dramatically transform U.S. foreign policy.

"It is clear today that the American people will reject the current policy and this group [of radical Neoconservatives] will retreat, 'licking their wounds,' to think tanks and newspaper and magazine offices," the expert said.

A group of six senators, among them both Republicans and Democrats, submitted Thursday to the U.S. Senate a bill urging the White House to substantiate the tasks of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and assess the START-I and subsequent treaties, and making proposals on a treaty to replace them.

In line with the bill, the U.S. president must submit such a document not later than September 1, 2009.

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