WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama vowed in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday to work with the Kremlin to reduce both Russia and America's stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
"We will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands," Obama promised.
Obama came to office four years ago promising to make nuclear arms reduction a centerpiece of his foreign and security policy, raising such hopes that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him their 2009 peace prize.
But his soaring rhetoric has not been matched by results, with Russia wary of engaging in dialogue, Iran refusing to rein in its nuclear enrichment drive and North Korea defying sanctions to carry out nuclear tests.
Defence officials said Washington is now ready to push the strategic negotiations with Russia forward. Speaking anonymously, they said Obama would seek a new 30 per cent cut in both arsenals to around 1,000 warheads each.
A Pentagon spokeswoman told AFP the United States aims in the short-term to reduce its stockpile to the level agreed in the last round of Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty talks, but that more cuts were possible.
"The department is committed to meeting the set New START levels for warheads by 2018," Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush said, referring to the level of 1,550 warheads agreed with Russia in the 2010 treaty.
"However, as the president said recently in Seoul, he firmly believes we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal."
She said the US would pursue further talks with Russia on reducing not only strategic nuclear warheads, but tactical weapons and warheads in reserve as well.
According to a recent report in The New York Times, Obama's National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is planning to head to Moscow in March to examine the framework for possible new arms control talks.