MOSCOW, June 20 (UPI) -- Moscow rebuffed President Obama's call for steep nuclear weapons reductions, with a Defense Ministry adviser calling the proposal "absolutely unacceptable."
"We cannot allow the balance of the strategic deterrence system to be broken, or the effectiveness of our nuclear forces to be diminished," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in St. Petersburg around the same time Obama said in Berlin he wanted to go beyond reductions outlined in the 2010 New START treaty by cutting the number of U.S. deployed strategic nuclear warheads by up to one-third if Russia did the same.
Obama had discussed his planned initiative with Putin at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, which ended Tuesday, U.S. and Russian officials said.
Putin told at a defense industry meeting Russia needed a strong strategic deterrence system not just to defend against possible U.S. threats but also to protect Russia from increasingly powerful non-nuclear weapons he said were "approaching the level of strategic nuclear arms in their strike capability."
Nuclear weapons play a larger role in Moscow's defense program than they do in Washington's because Russia's conventional forces are dramatically smaller than those of the United States, analysts and diplomats told The Wall Street Journal.
That's why Russia is skeptical about further cuts, the analysts said.
"We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe," Obama told some 4,500 people Wednesday in an address in front of the Brandenburg Gate in his first visit to the German capital as president.
"After a comprehensive review, I've determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third," Obama said. "And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."
"The Obama initiative is a continuation of the consistent U.S. course toward drawing Russia into the process of further and quite dramatic nuclear disarmament, which for our country is of course absolutely unacceptable," Igor Korotchenko, a member of a Defense Ministry advisory panel and editor in chief of Russia's monthly National Defense journal, told the RIA Novosti news service.
Russian officials told the agency U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear arms were themselves a thing of the past.
Russia cannot "indefinitely and bilaterally talk with the United States about cuts and restrictions on nuclear weapons in a situation where a whole number of other countries are expanding their nuclear and missile potentials," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
"Before discussing the necessity of a further reduction of nuclear weapons we need to arrive at an acceptable solution of the ABM [anti-ballistic missile] problem," he said.
Russia opposes U.S.-backed NATO plans to build a missile defense system in the Mediterranean Sea and in several European NATO member states.
The Obama administration had no immediate comment on the Kremlin's response to Obama's proposal.