US President Barack Obama plans to restart aggressive talks with Russia aimed at reducing both country's stockpile of nuclear weapons by 80 per cent to 1,000 warheads each, a British newspaper has claimed.
According to 'The Times', Obama is to establish a non- proliferation office at White House to oversee the talks with Moscow "to replace the 1991 US-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start)", which expires in December.
And, key to the initiative is Obama's assurance of a review of the George W Bush administration's plan for a US missile defence shield in eastern Europe, a project fiercely opposed by Russia.
"We're going to re-engage Russia in a more traditional and legally binding arms reduction process. We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them.
"Nobody would be surprised if the number reduced to the 1,000 mark for the post-Start treaty," an official from the Administration was quoted by the leading British newspaper as saying.
Any agreement would put pressure on Britain, which has 160 nuclear warheads, and other nuclear powers to reduce their stockpiles, and Obama views the "reduction of arms" by America and Russia as critical to efforts to persuade nations such as Iran not to develop the nuclear bomb, the report said.
Though no final decision on the defence shield has been taken by the US, delaying the placement of missiles in Poland and radar station in the Czech Republic removes what's a major impediment to Russian cooperation on "arms reduction".
Efforts to revive the Start talks were fitful under President Bush and complicated by his "insistence" on building a missile defence shield. "If Obama proceeds down this route, this will be a major departure. But there will be trouble in Congress," a Republican said.