Ten years ago, in Prague, US President Barack Obama and I signed the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, better known as New START. Today, when relations between our countries are going through difficult times, it is worth looking back on that event from a decade ago.
It is no exaggeration to say that the document signed then was a real achievement in Russian-US relations, and in many respects, it eased the general situation in the world. In fact, we brought our nuclear arsenals to where they had been in the early 1960s – to a state that had existed even before the start of the large-scale arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. We had enough goodwill, mutual respect, and honest regard for each other's positions to do this. And most importantly, we shared the understanding that without the New START accord we would have been unable to pave a normal path into the 21st century.
Unfortunately, the subsequent events that unfolded followed a completely different scenario. The “reset” of our relations, on which so many hopes were pinned, morphed into an utter “overload.” Moreover, this happened solely at the will of our US partners, who flipped from cooperation to political pressure and unleashed an unprecedented war of sanctions against us, trying to oust Russia from the global agenda.
Recent years have proven to be extremely difficult for arms control. In particular, the US-initiated abolition of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) touched off a very alarming signal. Moreover, Moscow has repeatedly drawn attention to Washington's non-compliance with a number of New START provisions. But this Treaty remains the only international agreement limiting the strategic offensive arms race.
Russia, for its part, had fully complied with its obligations to reduce strategic offensive arms by February 5, 2018. Since that moment, our country has repeatedly raised the question of extending the agreement after February 5, 2021. However, our American partners are constantly creating new obstacles to this. The position of the US Department of State on China’s hypothetical accession to New START and on applying the Treaty in its current form to the newest Russian weapons looks utterly unrealistic. There is an impression that Washington is trying to indulge in endless back-and-forth dialogue and torpedo the prolongation of this document, which is extremely important for maintaining strategic stability in the world.
Our position, voiced by President Vladimir Putin, remains unchanged. Russia is not interested in an arms race and remains ready to extend the New START accord immediately and without any preconditions. However, the United States does not seek, contrary to what was seen ten years ago, to engage in a serious, honest and professional dialogue. In the meantime, the extension of the Treaty could allow time for the development of a new and, possibly, even a multilateral strategic arms control system. If the New START deal ceases to exist, its demise will have extremely serious consequences for international security.
The event of a decade ago has another important dimension. Now that the world is on the verge of a grave global crisis in light of the coronavirus pandemic, countries should particularly strive to provide mutual assistance and support for one another. This means that a completely different, sanctions-free relationship is needed to cope with this dangerous threat. Ten years ago, Russia and the United States proved that they are capable of overcoming disagreements and coming to terms — not only for the sake of their peoples, but for the sake of all of humanity. Today, this ability to hear each other out is especially relevant.