MOSCOW — Russia warned U.S. lawmakers on Monday that any changes to the New STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed in April could kill the pact.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's warning, in an interview with the Interfax news agency, came with the White House pressing for a ratification vote on New START this week before the Senate breaks for Christmas.
Some Republicans want to make changes in the treaty, which they say could limit U.S. national security options, and to the accompanying ratification resolution before voting.
Democrats, whose Senate majority was reduced in congressional elections last month, have moved to bring the treaty to a vote this week before the new chamber takes office in January. It needs 67 votes for approval in the 100-member Senate.
"I can only underscore that the strategic nuclear arms treaty, worked out on the strict basis of parity, in our view fully answers to the national interests of Russia and the United States," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying in an interview.
"It cannot be opened up and become the subject of new negotiations," Lavrov said.
Medvedev has told Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament not to ratify the pact, a key element of improving relations between the Cold War foes, until U.S. Senate approval comes through or is certain.
Parliament potentially could sign off on it this year if the Senate approves it in time, said Konstantin Kosachyov, Kremlin-allied chairman of the international affairs committee in the State Duma, the lower chamber.
But he said Russian lawmakers would examine the U.S. ratification resolution and any declarations or notes accompanying it to ensure no significant changes were made.
"It's just impossible to say in what form we will ratify the pact without seeing the final Senate texts," Kosachyov said.
Lavrov also played down the potential effects of failure to ratify New START, saying improved U.S.-Russian relations were not "directly dependent" on the pact, Interfax reported.
"Nuclear disarmament is one of the key areas but far from the only area of our cooperation with the United States, which has a much more multifaceted character," he said.
However, he warned that recent improvements in Moscow's ties with NATO, which hit a low with Russia's brief war against NATO aspirant Georgia in 2008, are not set in stone.
"The success of this process is not guaranteed," Interfax quoted him as saying.
Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on missile defense at a summit last month, but Moscow has warned that ties could sour swiftly if it is dissatisfied with thealliance's plans for European shield and the role it is offered.
The New Start pact, if ratified, would commit the United States and Russia to cutting deployed nuclear weapons by about 30 percent, to no more than 1,550, within seven years.
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