Russia said Tuesday it reserves the right to withdraw from its new arms control treaty with the United States if it decides the planned U.S. missile defense shield threatens its security.
Russia will issue a statement outlining the terms for such a withdrawal after President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev sign the nuclear arms reduction treaty Thursday in Prague, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. The new accord replaces the 1991 START treaty, which expired in December.
But he said "Russia will have the right to opt out of the treaty if qualitative and quantitative parameters of the U.S. strategic missile defense begin to significantly effect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces."
Moscow has opposed U.S. plans for a missile radar in the Czech Republic and missile interceptors in Poland _ which Russia has said is too close to its own borders.
Lavrov said a revamped U.S. plan to put the interceptors in Romania instead was an improvement, in that it posed no threat the interceptors initially would be incapable of shooting down Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles.
If and when the interceptors are upgraded to a level that threatens Russia's nuclear forces, Moscow will "use the provisions of the treaty," Lavrov told a news briefing Tuesday, without elaborating.
Lavrov said Russia shares Obama's goal of a nuclear-free world, but said other nations must join the disarmament process.
Ridding the world of nuclear weapons, he said, "is impossible without taking into account of what is going on in the sphere of nuclear security."
Lavrov said the new treaty would count missiles and other weapons fitted with conventional warheads together with nuclear weapons _ a provision Russia had demanded, noting U.S. plans to refurbish part of its nuclear arsenal by fitting conventional warheads to high-precision long-range missiles.