The prospect of an improvement in relations between Russia and the United States in the midst of the Ukraine war fades after both powers have been unable to even hold a technical meeting on neutral territory. Moscow suddenly canceled on Monday the expected appointment of the bilateral commission on the New Start Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that was to be held this Tuesday in Cairo and which marked the first contact between the two countries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow accuses Washington of not listening to its concerns or interests and focusing only on the inspection of nuclear arsenals, one of the requirements of this arms control treaty. “We will offer other dates to the Americans in a while, but this will not be instantaneous,” warned the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Riabkov, who has pushed away the prospect of redirecting the dialogue by ruling out that it could take place before the end of the year.
The rupture occurred when negotiating the agenda of the meeting of the consultative commission of the treaty, the only pact that both countries maintain to avoid an arms race after the rupture of other previous frameworks. “We saw, even up to the moment the meeting was suspended, that the focus of the Americans was focused exclusively on the resumption of inspections under the New Start Treaty, while other issues were priorities for us,” Riabkov argued. . “In addition to the situation around Ukraine”, he has added as an additional reason.
The diplomat qualified shortly after that Washington and Moscow have not directly addressed the war in their contacts. “I don’t know [que exista] no channel to de-escalate what is happening in Ukraine. I know nothing. We do not have a dialogue with the United States on the Ukrainian issue because the positions are radically different,” he assured, while hinting that Moscow is throwing hints at its rival: “We are sending signals to the Americans that their position in favor of escalation, their deepening involvement in this conflict brings with it grave consequences and the risks are growing.”
The review of nuclear arsenals is a basic pillar of the last agreement in force between the two powers for arms control. Renewed in 2021 for another five years, the New Start guarantees mutual inspection several times a year, although the last one dates back to the beginning of 2020 due to the pandemic.
As Washington calls for an inspection that Russia considers “a whim,” Moscow is demanding clarification from Washington on several weapons that could carry both nuclear warheads and conventional explosives. According to the Kremlin, the September US arsenal notification did not account for 41 B-52H bombers, 56 Trident II ballistic missile launchers and four ICBM intercontinental missile silos that the Pentagon considered repurposed for other purposes. According to Russia, the treaty does not contemplate, for example, the transformation of the latter into underground training facilities.
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Moscow also defended that the suspension of the meeting has been a political signal to its adversary. “The issues that dominate our agenda with the US are more important today than some working mechanics under the New Start. This is how it looks now”, Riabkov warned, stressing that this was a step taken by the Kremlin itself: “The situation developed in such a way that we had no other choice, the decision was made at the political level”.
The Russian official now demands that the initiative to return to the table come from Washington: “Just as the opposing party has decided to cut off the dialogue, it is they who should take the initiative to restore it if they consider it appropriate. Otherwise, we will be in a losing position.” Riabkov, one of the heads of the unsuccessful negotiations with NATO prior to the Ukraine war, added: “Our approach is well known to the Americans. It is not opportunistic, it is based on our national security interests.”
The tension between Russia and the US due to the offensive on Ukraine has made it difficult to comply with this treaty to such an extent that the Kremlin opens the door to its rupture. “Dialogue is only possible under the principle of a balance of interests in the search for common denominators, without a unilateral imposition of certain preferences,” Riabkov warned. Without that condition, “there will be no prospects for this dialogue when it resumes, if it resumes.”
For her part, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zajárova, has argued that the treaty cannot be “an isolated and autonomous entity of geopolitical realities” such as US support for Ukraine in the war, despite the fact that this aid has been always public. Zajárova added: “Across the board, we see an increased level of toxicity and hostility from Washington. (…) Almost all of the US steps towards Russia are subject to a pathological desire to harm our country whenever possible”.
“You have to follow a very peculiar logic to talk to Russia about moderation, transparency and predictability in military affairs, while at the same time helping the kyiv regime to kill our military and civilians in the Russian regions,” Zakharova said. on his Telegram account, referring to the territories that Moscow has annexed after occupying them during the invasion. The spokeswoman has influenced, without providing evidence, that Washington provides kyiv with “increasingly destructive means” and “American advisers and mercenaries.”
The nuclear debate returns to the fore after several weeks of silence from the Kremlin on the danger of an alleged radioactive dirty bomb in Ukraine. The president, Vladimir Putin, and his circle assured until the beginning of November that kyiv was prepared to carry out an attack with such a weapon, but the matter was later forgotten. The middle The Wall Street Journal published on November 14 that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang criticized then at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit that all the recent nuclear rhetoric was “irresponsible.”
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