Date: 28 April 2020

Russia Is Open for Talks with U.S. on Nuclear Disarmament

Kremlin strategists have taken some steps to mend ties with the West, especially with the United States, since the coronavirus outbreak. Thus, Moscow is sending signals to relax –– or even lift sanctions, and, from time to time, makes an offer to launch disarmament talks with Washington. This is yet somewhat a trial balloon, at least for Russia’s foreign ministry. There is a slim chance for an agreement –– even if Russia and the United States sit at the negotiating table.

“Russia is ready to discuss hypersonic missiles and other arms control issues with the United States outside the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START),” Russian Foreign Minister said on April 28. Speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), the top Russian diplomat said Washington and Moscow had been in talks on strategic stability means back in January, yet the U.S. delegation displayed no desire to seek what he named “constructive decision.” This is what he echoed on April 14. “Russia is ready to discuss hypersonic missiles and other arms control issues with the United States as part of wider discussions about strategic stability. We are open to talks about the future of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START),” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying. Three days later the top Russian diplomat had a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The latter official reiterated the official U.S. stance on a new vision for a trilateral arms control agreement that also includes China, both in regards to the New START deal and the broken Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. But this may be a barrier –– as neither does Beijing have the intention of curbing its arms stockpile, nor does Moscow seek to exert pressure on China. Yet another issue is orbital around U.S. military presence in Europe. On April 28, Lavrov said talks should include a U.S. nuclear withdrawal from Europe. Interestingly, he had never spoken about that.

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In 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that the U.S., Russia, and China launch talks on a new arrangement that could substitute the New START deal, signed by then U.S. and Russian leaders, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, back in April 2010 in Prague, the Czech Republic. The document entered into force in February 2011 to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads on both sides. This is the last arms reduction deal that binds Washington and Moscow. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will expire by February 2021 unless the U.S. and Russian presidents choose to extend it.

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