Russia signals nuclear arms cuts will not come easy

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia voiced concern on Wednesday about U.S. missile defenses and high-precision conventional weapons, signaling that nuclear arms cuts proposed by President Barack Obama are likely to face obstacles.

In a speech in Berlin, Obama said he wanted to reduce U.S. deployed strategic nuclear weapons by one-third and would seek to negotiate cuts with Russia. The former Cold War foes possess the vast majority of the world's nuclear weapons.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Moscow's concerns about anti-missile shields the United States and NATO are deploying, and said the development of high-precision, long-range conventional weapons could upset the strategic balance.

"These weapons are approaching the level of strategic nuclear arms in terms of their strike capability. States possessing such weapons strongly increase their offensive potential," Putin said at a meeting on defense issues in the Russian city of St Petersburg.

Russia, which signed a nuclear arms reduction agreement with the United States known as New START in 2010, has said repeatedly that further cuts in strategic nuclear arms should not be made without measures to allay its concerns about other weapons.

Putin did not mention Obama's speech, which began shortly after he spoke. His foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, when asked about reports that Obama would propose cuts, said: "It's necessary to bring other countries that possess nuclear weapons into the process."

"Now it is necessary to look at this issue more broadly and, naturally, to enlarge the circle of participants in possible contacts on this," Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk and Denis Dyomkin, Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)