Director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov’s answers to questions from Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency
Question: Can you comment on statements by representatives of the US administration that appeared in Western media that the purported Russian hypersonic cruise missiles that were allegedly tested in the Arkhangelsk Region puts into doubt the extension of the New START Treaty? Is this linkage possible in principle, and are not such statements meant to provoke?
Vladimir Yermakov: If we want to really comprehend the core of the matter, then, first of all, it should be noted that the New START Treaty covers specific categories of strategic arms, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and ICBM and SLBM launchers. The Treaty does not cover any other weapons systems. This also concerns the relevant research and development projects. Therefore, linking the question of hypothetically extending the New START Treaty with certain weapons systems that do not fit into the aforementioned categories is absolutely unacceptable.
However, the statements of our US colleagues no longer cause surprise. As of late, we have been hearing US officials express doubts more and more often as to whether extending the New START Treaty makes sense. It is hard to perceive this as anything other than a conscious effort to lay the required media groundwork and to invent pretexts for declining to extend the agreement after it expires in February 2021 and to obtain absolute freedom to build up the US nuclear arsenal, even to the detriment of strategic stability and international security.
For its part, the Russian Federation has repeatedly voiced its readiness, including at the highest level, to seriously address all matters linked with the possible extension of the New START Treaty. We believe that, in current conditions, this would be a reasonable and responsible step, making it possible to prevent a complete breakdown in the area of strategic stability, and this would also provide extra time to consider joint approaches towards new weapons systems that are currently emerging and possible new arms control treaties.
At the same time, we cannot forget that in order to extend the New START Treaty, it is necessary to first resolve a problem created by the US, namely, its illegitimate decision to exempt 100 units of US strategic arms from the Treaty’s provisions. The US has flippantly described these strategic arms as “re-equipped”, although Russian inspectors are unable to verify the results of the re-equipping under the procedure stipulated by the Treaty. As such, the various linkages and doubts surrounding the extension of the New START Treaty only highlight the US reluctance to fully honour its treaty obligations. Nevertheless, we will continue to make sure that the Americans fulfill all their commitments in full.
Notably, this also has special significance in the context of preparations for the Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Unfortunately, the United States is so far unable to propose any positive agenda for any aspect of this work. On the contrary, the United States is undermining all the core elements of the NPT. It is trying to block a conference to deal with a nuclear-free zone for the Middle East, it has undermined the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, refused to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, retains its nuclear arsenals in non-nuclear European states and continues to train its non-nuclear allies how to use nuclear weapons. One gets the impression that Washington has already recklessly undermined everything that can be undermined. How will the United States break free of this vicious circle? It’s a good question.
Question: Could you comment on outgoing US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman saying that Washington does not intend to deploy medium-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe on a priority basis, and that it will do this in Asia?
Vladimir Yermakov: Ambassador Huntsman is not the first to mention the deployment of ground-based US medium-range missiles in Asia. High-ranking US military officials have been discussing this subject for quite a while. For example, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper openly mentioned this. US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Andrea Thompson also made a similar statement the other day. Moreover, the US did not even conceal the fact during its contacts with us that China was the key factor in deciding to withdraw from the INF Treaty.
Understandably, we are seriously concerned by US media leaks about the possible deployment of ground-based medium-range and shorter-range missiles with various types of warheads in any region of the world. As a responsible state, Russia is not interested in new missile crises. On this point, I would like to recall the top-level Russian decision not to deploy ground-based medium-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe or Asia Pacific until similar US missiles appear there. We believe it would be logical for the United States and its allies to respond with a similar moratorium to ensure predictability and create a constructive foundation for further dialogue. So far, we have not seen any interest in this from our US colleagues.