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New START may share INF's fate, senior Russian diplomat says

February 01, 13:24 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Washington may also pull out of the New START, warns a Russian envoy

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New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by Russia and US on April 8, 2010

New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by Russia and US on April 8, 2010

© AP Photo/Petr David Josek

MOSCOW, February 1. /TASS/. Moscow does not rule out that after pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), Washington may take similar steps concerning the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel.

"What will come next is a huge question. I fear that the New START may share the fate of the INF Treaty, it may just expire on February 5, 2021, without an extension," he noted.

Moscow offered to prolong New STAR for a five-year period, however, the US avoids the discussion under "laughable" pretenses, he added. "First the US Congress, and then the executive branch introduced a false, harmful and detrimental linkage into their internal discussion and decision-making process: that the fate of New START depends in some way on what will happen to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty," the diplomat said.

"Long before the current tensions around the INF Treaty arose, we offered the Americans to tackle the issue of prolonging New START as a backbone, a basis for the arms control system. Prolonging it at least for five years, as the letter of the treaty itself suggests," the Russian senior diplomat reminded. "The Americans that we are in contact with avoid this issue under laughable pretenses, such as "there is still a lot of time", "there is no need to hurry", because the decision on prolonging it can be taken on in one day. This is children’s talk, which means that they do not admit the existence of a very serious issue related to the implementation of this treaty."

Strategic stability

The US can ensure its own security through making agreements on strategic stability with Russia and maintaining a reliable prior notification system, he said. 

According to him, one of the United States’ features is that it believes "there are technological solutions to political issues." However, in Ryabkov’s words, US President Donald Trump’s idea to protect every American city from a potential missile attack is impossible even with all of the country’s resources.

"Ensuring the security of every American city requires agreements, political decisions and steps to guarantee strategic stability, as well as a reliable prior notification system, measures to prevent incidents, notify others about launches and strengthen arms control in all areas," the senior Russian diplomat stressed. "This is what Russia suggests," Ryabkov added.

"Last year, we handed a series of documents concerning the matter over to the US. In fact, we put forward a peace program," he noted.

New arms race

Through starting a new arms race, the US has set the course for putting economic pressure on Russia, Ryabkov said. 

"To my mind, there are less and less people in Washington now, who are ready to consider arms control as an effective way of ensuring their own security," he said. "It seems like they are starting the game of putting economic pressure on us through a new arms race."

"They do not understand that we have learned our lessons from the past, and our response to any potential challenges will be economically effective," the deputy foreign minister continued. "This is not cheap, but it will not ruin us. And we are proving it in practice already."

INF Treaty

The INF deal was concluded on December 8, 1987, and took effect on June 1, 1988. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). In recent years, Washington has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty. Moscow strongly dismissed the accusations and voiced its own counterclaims against Washington’s non-compliance.

On October 20, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would withdraw from the INF Treaty because Russia had allegedly violated it. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called this decision a dangerous move. Berlin and Beijing criticized Washington, London voiced its support for the US, while NATO laid the blame for Trump’s decision on Russia.

On January 15, Russia and the US held inter-agency consultations on the INF Treaty in Geneva. Ryabkov said following the meeting that the US had not even tried to bring the positions of the parties closer, making it clear that it was determined to implement its plans to destroy the Treaty.

The US State Department's Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson, who led the US delegation, in turn, once again accused Russia of non-compliance with the document and said that Washington would start the process of pulling out of the INF Treaty on February 2, unless Moscow dismantled its 9M729 missile, which, according to Washington, violates the Treaty.

New START

The Russian-US New START treaty took effect in 2011. Under its terms, either party shall reduce its strategic offensive arms in such a way that by the end of a seven-year period following the moment the treaty takes effect, it should have no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles and heavy bombers, 1,550 warheads for them and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers.

The treaty shall stay in effect for ten years (up to 2021) unless it is replaced by another agreement by that moment, or it can be prolonged for no more than five years (until 2026) by mutual consent. Lately, Moscow repeatedly urged Washington to avoid delays in prolonging that treaty, which it described as a gold standard in the field of disarmament.

However, in October 2018, a senior member of the US administration warned that the current US government is unlikely to prolong New START.

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