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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Russia Want New Deal On Nuclear Arms: Pickering

WASHINGTON -- Thomas Pickering, who has just retired as U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Friday that Defense Secretary William Perry and Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov both want to push ahead on a new accord to reduce nuclear weapons.

A quick start on talks has also been proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Pickering said Start III -- a new nuclear pact -- could end support in Russia for building new missiles.

The question arose when Perry, Lugar and others were on a trip to Russia last month and watched the dismantling of Russian weapons.

"We went to Archangel and saw a Russian Yankee-class submarine being cut apart," Pickering told a news conference. "We asked the obvious question: 'You're doing one -- what would it take to do two?' And the answer was 'Four million dollars more for wages -- and we could do this [one] faster if we could pay our people, but right now they're working for free.'"

Budget cuts have greatly reduced Russian spending on the armed forces.

Pickering said the discussion went on to the situation under Start II -- the nuclear accord that the Russians have not yet ratified.

Under it, Russia has the option of replacing missiles carrying multiple warheads with missiles that have only a single warhead. But Russia does not have the money to build them.

Pickering said objections to approving Start II have been raised in the Russian parliament, or Duma. Opponents argue that eliminating the Russian missiles with multiple warheads -- as Start II requires -- without building the new missiles would leave Russia in a position of inferiority.

One way to overcome the objection would be for Start III to put the agreed number of missiles low enough on both the Russian and American sides so that the new Russian weapons need not be built, he said.