Excerpt from transcript of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answering questions at a meeting with the Association of European Business in Russia,

Question: The old proverb says "If you seek peace, prepare for war." One of the major achievements of the G8 was the destruction of chemical weapons, which I believe will wrap up somewhere near the 100th anniversary of the first use of chemical weapons. Do you believe that the same may happen with nuclear weapons in the future? And my second question: I work in Moscow and would like to see a visa-waiver programme with Europe. Where are there more obstacles, in Russia or the EU?

Sergey Lavrov: Concerning the second question: we are ready to introduce a visa-waiver programme today if you like. I hope that answers your question.

As far as your question about disarmament overall and getting rid of weapons of mass destruction is concerned, chemical disarmament is underway and we are doing everything to meet our obligations in a timely manner. The deadline is less certain and may be extended for certain other countries with larger stocks of chemical weapons. However, I think in the long run there will be no obstacles to finally getting rid of chemical weapons. You asked if we can do the same with nuclear weapons: there is a series of initiatives that have been put forth by prominent politicians, public figures and scientists. Recently the Global Zero group met in Paris. The group's name is a call for zero nuclear weapons in the future. There is also the Luxembourg initiative. I met with its leaders just the other day in Moscow. There is also a commission for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation formed by Australian and Japanese public figures. We are hearing some ideas that are pretty radical. However, everyone understands that moving towards a nuclear-free world will involve a number of problems that are still unsolved. The first problem is that there are no limitation, reduction and control agreements on strategic offensive arms except the agreements between Russia and the United States. Everyone acknowledges that is the case. The only current treaty between Russia and the U.S. that limits nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles will expire in one year. Over the last one and a half years we have been negotiating with our U.S. partners in order to establish a new programme for controlling strategic nuclear arms after the treaty expires and to make the programme effective in the future so that the limits and reductions eventually cover everything - not just nuclear warheads installed on vehicles and stored in armouries, but also the vehicles themselves. In addition, new problems have emerged in recent years involving U.S. plans to create non-nuclear strategic arms, high-precision arms that are part of Washington's Prompt Global Strike concept. Therefore, even within the context of bilateral Russian-American relations - and this, I repeat, is a bilateral process between the only two countries that have the substantial limitations and agreements that have been called for by all nations - there is the problem of getting other official nuclear-weapons states involved in the process of advancing toward a nuclear-free world. Then there are the unofficial nuclear-weapon "threshold" states. In the long run, any country in the world can develop nuclear technology. That is why the participants of the Luxembourg and Global Zero initiatives are focusing solely on a global ban.

There is also another issue that Luxembourg and Global Zero deem important. We can imagine that a day will come when we are rid of all nuclear weapons and the last warhead is destroyed, but it is clear that even if this does happen, it will not happen soon. However, science, including military science, is forging ahead. Technologies, including military technologies, keep developing. One never knows, but maybe somewhere in some laboratory scientists will design a new weapon that is neither nuclear, chemical, nor biological, but which has the same capacity for mass destruction. Then countries deprived of both nuclear weapons and of this highly efficient new means of destruction will feel unprotected. Here I am not expressing our own position, but trying to convey the thoughts of my colleagues within the Luxembourg, Global Zero and other initiatives. This is the way they are reasoning.

As you are aware, the goal of nuclear-free world has been championed many times in UN and U.S.-Soviet documents. It is a goal that cannot simply be ignored. But the devil is in details, and efforts in this direction must be performed with the utmost responsibility so as not to neglect anything. Our immediate objective is nevertheless to strengthen the non-proliferation regime. The next Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will be held in 2010. This treaty also stipulates nuclear-weapon states' disarmament obligations. We would like to see all nuclear-weapon states, and not just Russia and the U.S., demonstrate progress in limiting and reducing nuclear armaments within the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation process. At present, this is the most immediate and urgent task.