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Obama, Medvedev sign START treaty on nuclear weapons, but Russia is uneasy

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Some experts say Lavrov was addressing domestic skeptics, including the powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who has publicly criticized the treaty.

"President Medvedev is very worried about possible domestic opposition to this treaty," says Viktor Kremeniuk, deputy director of the official Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow. "Several parties in the Duma, including United Russia [which is led by Putin], and the Communists, have expressed doubts. Medvedev sees a ratification battle looming."

Disappointed Moscow

But Lavrov's tough language also reflects Moscow's deep disappointment that the accord contains no firm link between the substantial cuts both sides will be making to their stocks of offensive atomic weapons and Russia's demand for follow-on negotiations to limit strategic missile defense. Many in Moscow fear that a US technological breakthrough in defensive weapons might undermine its aging strategic deterrent, which is heavily deployed on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"Though the exact text isn't known, it's clear that there is no direct connection between offensive and defensive weapons in the treaty," says Pavel Salin, an expert at the independent Center for Political Consulting in Moscow. "Russia faced a difficult dilemma: either to refuse to sign this document, or meet American interests under special conditions. It's no surprise that we're leaving ourselves a way out."

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