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constitute the backbone of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. Finally, there can be no ruling out a situation in which the two sides are forced to start raising the combat readiness level of their strategic nuclear forces once again but do not do so simultaneously. The country that first restores its strategic nuclear forces to full combat readiness could be tempted to make use of the opportunity for a first strike, and this could create an extremely unstable and dangerous situation.

Objectively speaking, proposals for reducing the combat readiness level of strategic nuclear forces are not in the interests of strengthening strategic stability and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Based on all of the above, we can draw the following overall conclusion: there is no doubt as to the need to activate the arms control process. A breakdown in the disarmament process in not in the interests of Russia, the United States, or the international community in general. Disarmament has been an important part of international politics for several decades now. Russia and the United States have both made a significant contribution to maintaining strategic stability in the world and it would be completely irrational now to take disarmament issues off the global agenda. Only joint, open, concrete and unbiased discussion of the existing problems and divergences in approach and close cooperation can bring positive results in the form of legally binding agreements that are in keeping with national interests and the interests of the entire international community. The current attempts to reduce the disarmament process to unilateral steps cannot achieve these objectives because in the absence of legally binding agreements each side will have a less clear picture of the other side’s real forces and will think them greater than they are in reality. Suspicions could arise that the other side is concealing the true scale of its forces. The absence of legally binding control measures makes it impossible to verify whether such concealment is actually taking place. Unilateral steps do not make for a more predictable future because they are implemented without mutual legal obligations and can be reversed with greater ease and rapidity. The problem of the irreversibility of arms reductions is becoming more acute; (this is an especially sensitive issue for Russia, given NATO’s eastward expansion, the U.S. plans to deploy components of a missile defense system close to Russia’s borders, and the prospect that weapons will be deployed in outer space.

The increasing importance of WMD proliferation issues and the growing problem of international terrorism, including nuclear terrorism, should also be kept in mind. If extremists get their hands on weapons of mass destruction the results would be catastrophic. There is thus a clear need for the international community to coordinate efforts to prevent further erosion of the non-proliferation regime.

There can be no doubt that success in this important area will facilitate more rapid progress in resolving other important international issues.

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