This is what I would call a downward spiral in the U.S.-Russian relations - the lack of interest in any meaningful arms reductions on the part of both administrations generates all kind of misunderstandings that drive the relationships from not-particularly-good to a-bit-worse.

A few remarks on tactical nuclear weapons in the interview with Robert Joseph in Arms Control Today all of a sudden sparked a controversy in Moscow. Not that Joseph said anything new - he stuck to the old position that the United States is interested in discussing issues of tactical nuclear weapons because of the "real imbalance" - Russia is believed to have more of these weapons in its arsenal. This position is as old as it is hypocritical - Joseph must know quite well that one way to start this discussion is to ask what the U.S. nuclear weapons are doing in Europe. Joseph said it is important to understand Russian motivations. But Russia could at least make half a case for keeping its tactical nukes by pointing at the NATO expansion. What are U.S. motivations?

The reports about Joseph's interview appeared in the Russian press on Monday. (It is interesting that these remarks were attributed to an unnamed senior official, probably to hint at some sinister motive behind them.) Immediately, an "unnamed senior Ministry of Defense official" replied that Russia is not going to discuss it tactical nuclear weapons with anyone. The good news is that this particular official does not seem to be aware of the official Russian position on the issue, which is that negotiations are possible. The bad news is that we are probably a bit further away from these negotiations now.