WASHINGTON — The US government plans to resume nuclear arms negotiations with Russia next year in hopes of securing legal limits on the smaller, battlefield nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported.
The newspaper said these weapons are viewed as the most vulnerable to theft or diversion.
Tactical weapons generally refer to those with ranges of 300 to 400 miles (480-645 kilometers) or less.
In 1991, then-president George H.W. Bush announced that he would unilaterally withdraw most tactical nuclear weapons from forward positions, the report said.
Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev soon reciprocated, and thousands of tactical bombs were withdrawn or eliminated.
But today, The Times said, the United States retains about 500 tactical weapons, and experts say about 150 to 240 of them are still stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.
Russia has between 2,000 and 6,000 of them, depending on the estimate, the report said.
US officials have said Moscow had moved more of them closer to NATO allies as recently as last spring in response to the deployment of US missile defense installations closer to its territory, the paper pointed out.
Experts warned that it would be hard to persuade Russia to give up its advantage without getting something in return, The Times said.
If not a concession on missile defense, these experts said Russia would certainly want to talk about paring back the large stockpiles of stored strategic weapons that are also not covered by the new START treaty, the report said.