Moscow has agreed to key US demands in a bid to preserve the New START arms control agreement before it expires, according to the Russian envoy to Washington. He claims the US then simply added new conditions for its renewal.
“The fate of New START is perhaps the key issue for future arms control,” ambassador Anatoly Antonov said at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute, a prominent American lobby group and policy advisory, on Wednesday.
The 2011 treaty putting a limit on the number of nuclear warheads, and their delivery vehicles, the US and Russia are allowed to possess remains virtually the only active arms control agreement between the two nuclear powers. Yet it is due to expire on February 5, 2021, while Moscow and Washington are locked in uneasy negotiations over its extension.
For quite a while, we could not secure the consent of the US to resume a serious dialogue. In fact, we succeded in re-establishing contacts only in the lead-up to the US presidential elections. As a result, we are running out of time…
Antonov added that Russia was ready to accept two key US demands to break the impasse and save the deal, only to be met with additional demands.
“After difficult consultations with our American colleagues two months ago Russia announced its readiness to meet Washington halfway on two key issues,” Antonov told the event hosted by the Washington think tank, adding that the concessions were related to extending the treaty for one year instead of five and putting a cap on all nuclear warheads for that period.
That was exactly what the US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien demanded in mid-October, when Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested extending the New START agreement for one year without any preconditions.
However, Washington has apparently decided not to take yes for an answer. The US “tried to get us to agree to the inclusion of a harsh Cold War-era verification regime” and to formulate some definitions Moscow expected to be related to some future treaty negotiations, the ambassador said, adding that Washington literally sought to “get ahead of the results of the potential negotiations.”
Antonov called the new demands a sudden U-turn in the US policy, since it was Washington that suggested leaving rigorous Cold War-era controls behind when the New START was first negotiated 11 years ago.
Signed in 2010, the New START treaty limits the number of nuclear warheads Moscow and Washington can possess to 1,550 apiece and says the number of deployed strategic nuclear means of delivery should not exceed 700, with their total number capped at 800.
The Russian envoy praised the agreement’s effectiveness by saying that it helped to cut the number of deployed warheads by a third and the number of delivery vehicles by more than a half.
Moscow still hopes it could salvage the treaty and has called on the US to continue the talks, adding that any agreement should lead to enhanced safety for everyone, not for the chosen few nations.
“Any negotiations should result in enhanced national security of all countries and lower levels of their weapon arsenals. We are ready for such work,” Antonov said, adding that, as a “predictable nuclear power,” Russia would “under no circumstances” engage in a new arms race.
Calling on the international community to support its continuous efforts to preserve strategic stability, Antonov rhetorically asked if the world should “build relations on the basis of equality, or give up and submit to the will of one state.”