After Russia and the United States implement the New START treaty, further strategic offensive arms cuts will have to be discussed in a multilateral format, as the matter will concern arms levels comparable to those possessed by countries other than Russia and the U.S., Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
"The first priority now is to implement the New START treaty, which has already been signed and ratified and is being implemented. It will take several years more for us to reach the levels it stipulates," Lavrov said in answering questions from the Vesti on Saturday TV news program.
"Surely, apart from the above-mentioned factors affecting strategic stability, we have also to bear in mind that further steps that could be proposed on reducing strategic offensive weapons will have to be considered in a multilateral format, because the further reductions would bring us to levels comparable to the nuclear arsenals possessed by countries other than Russia and the U.S.," he said.
"I mean not only the officially recognized nuclear powers but all countries possessing nuclear weapons," Lavrov said.
Lavrov pointed out that U.S. President Barack Obama had mentioned at a meeting on the sidelines of the recent G8 summit at the Lough Erne Resort that the U.S. administration would set out its considerations in Berlin that it could well further cut its strategic offensive weapons on condition that Russia would do the same.
In response, President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia's position that, in considering the issue, it is necessary to take into account all factors affecting strategic stability, including missile defense, weapons in space (which is opposed by Russia and China), non-nuclear strategic weapons, and the fact that there is significant misbalance in terms of conventional weapons possessed by Russia and the U.S., Lavrov said.
"President Obama said he understands the need to take into account all these factors in discussing further steps toward reducing nuclear weapons," he added.
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