In the opinion of the Foreign Ministry's official spokesman, the question of permitted work in the field of antimissile defense systems is "extremely important in present conditions", since it is directly linked to the 1972 ABM treaty. The treaty still remains one of the most important in the structure of arms-control agreements, since it is "the cornerstone of strategic stability, the key condition for the reduction of strategic offensive weapons." The preservation and observance of the ABM treaty is the basis for drawing up several new agreements, too.
Many countries are currently showing an interest, Mikhail Demurin observed, in creating tactical ABM systems intended to combat nonstrategic ballistic missiles. "Work in this field must be performed in strict compliance with the treaty and must not lead to its being circumvented, i.e., it must not lead to the creation of strategic ABM defense systems on the pretext that they are for tactical defense." Accordingly, the question of working out an understanding on distinguishing between strategic and tactical ABM defense has been under discussion for a lengthy period. The heart of the problem, the diplomat recalled, is "to establish parameters for tactical ABM systems that would not enable them to be used for the sake of strategic ABM defense."
As the diplomat emphasized, "the problem is not an easy one," and discussion of it is being conducted on both the political and expert levels. The diplomat recalled that the presidents of Russia and the United States adopted a special statement on the subject. The possibility of reaching an interim understanding is now being discussed, but the work is not yet complete and will require further efforts from the sides. There will soon be another session of the permanent consultative commission on observance of the ABM treaty.
According to Mikhail Demurin, the question of maintaining, strictly observing, and not circumventing the ABM treaty "is assuming such importance at the moment that any attempts to circumvent, downgrade, or subvert it may also have an adverse effect on the ratification of the START-2 treaty, as was bluntly stated in both the U.S. and our parliaments at the hearings on the treaty that are under way."