MOSCOW – The U.S. test of a missile interceptor threatens the entire structure of nuclear disarmament treaties, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said Sunday.
The comment, which came after a successful U.S. test, was the latest Kremlin warning that the Bush administration's missile defense plans will hurt global security rather than boosting it.
An interceptor fired from a Pacific island destroyed its target Saturday in a successful test of the "hit-to-kill" technology the administration hopes will become a key element of a missile defense network, the Pentagon said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the test created a situation "which threatens all international treaties in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation which are based on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
Russia "confirms its position of principle on the need to preserve and consolidate the ABM treaty and is prepared to discuss all emerging problems in full compliance with its obligations under this centerpiece agreement," Yakovenko said in a statement.
Moscow and other proponents of the ABM treaty contend that it has been and must remain the cornerstone of international strategic stability.
The U.S.-Soviet pact was based on the assumption that a ban on nationwide missile defense systems would discourage both sides from launching a first strike out of fear of retaliation.
The Bush administration wants Russia to agree to amend or replace the treaty with an arrangement permitting testing and deployment of defenses against long-range missiles.
Washington wants a missile defense system to fend off potential threats from unpredictable and antagonistic states and says it wouldn't be able to deal with the kind of massive strike Russia is capable of launching. But Russia, China and other nations have strongly opposed the U.S. plans.
President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to hold consultations on the treaty during their summit in Ljubljana, Slovenia last month, and they are expected to discuss the issue when they meet next Sunday at the G-8 summit of industrialized nations in Genoa, Italy.
Yakovenko said Russia was "open to the earliest start of the dialogue with the United States of America on the issues of the START and ABM treaties and other questions of Russian-American strategic cooperation on the basis of understandings reached by Vladimir Putin and George Bush in Ljubljana."