WASHINGTON, October 30. /TASS/. The US must begin the discussion of the conditions for the prolongation of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) without delay, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, nominated for the position of US Ambassador to Russia, said on Wednesday during a hearing of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on reviewing his candidacy.
"They [the Russians] are investing in <...> strategic systems that they would view as not covered by New START. I believe that they need to be included <…> in our discussions going forward with the Russians in advance of what would be otherwise the lapsing of the New START treaty on February 5, 2021," he said. Sullivan mentioned "at least 5 other weapon systems" that, according to him, have been publicized by the Russian authorities.
"When I discussed this with my Russian interlocutors in Geneva this past summer, I made it clear to them that <…> it’s not going to matter to the president or the people of the United States if we’re hit by an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile — TASS] that is covered by the New START treaty or some hybrid weapon <…> low-yield nuclear weapon that destroys Denver or Salt Lake City," Sullivan said.
"All those systems need to be addressed," he stressed.
"Their [Russia’s] strategy is to comply with New START, and we’ve determined that they have, but to build these other systems and a large number of devices that we don’t really have a lot of transparency on," the US diplomat added. "We asked for the number of nuclear weapons that they [Russia] had, nuclear devices, and they wouldn’t even address the question," he concluded.
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 the seven-year period after 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 (submarine launched ballistic missiles) launchers and heavy bombers.
The treaty shall stay in effect for ten years (up to 2021) unless it is replaced by another agreement and 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.
Counterterrorism dialogue with Russia
John Sullivan promised on Wednesday that if appointed ambassador, he will conduct dialogue with Russia in the sphere of counterterrorism, arms control, regulation in Syria and Afghanistan and other issues.
"If confirmed, I will continue to support dialogues with the Russian government on counterterrorism and arms control, as well as on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, on finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, on Syria, and many other issues," he said during a hearing of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. "This requires sustained diplomacy with the Russian government in areas of shared interests, for example in arms control, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism, and resolute opposition to Russia where it undermines the interests and values of the United States and our allies and partners, for example by threatening stability in Europe and election security in the United States."
"Our relationship with Russia has reached a post-Cold War ebb," Sullivan noted.
He stressed that as deputy secretary of state, he has been "directly involved in developing U.S. policy on Russia", which concerns dialogue on strategic stability and introduction of new sanctions.
Return of detained militants
Washington has been urging various states to repatriate citizens that joined terrorist groups in Syria and were later detained. In response to a senator’s question on whether Russia has been returning its citizens involved in terrorist groups back to their home country, the diplomat said: "They have in fact, in fairly large numbers."
"The Russian government <…> with respect to the foreign terrorists fighters in northeast Syria, has agreed with us that countries who have their citizens <…> who left their homeland, went to northeast Syria or elsewhere but are now detained in northeast Syria, that they should be taking those citizens back to their home countries to be prosecuted and dealt with, including Russia," Sullivan explained.
Reinstatement of Russia-US embassy staff
US and Russia are currently holding talks on the reinstatement of embassy staff in both countries, the US deputy secretary of state informed.
"We have an ongoing discussion with the Russian Foreign Ministry on these issues," he said, adding that the dispute with Russia "extends beyond the initial expulsion of 60 [diplomats]." He noted that Russian officials refuse to give visas to US diplomats to "backfill" the staff.
On October 3, former US ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman resigned from his position. US President Donald Trump presented the candidacy of Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan for the consideration of the US Senate.