Inter-American problems and regional policy
Director of the Foreign Ministry Department on Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov answers media questions
Question: What meetings did you have in Washington? Did you discuss the implementation of instructions given by the US and Russian presidents after their meeting in Osaka? Did the Americans explain their view of “the model of disarmament and arms control in the 21st century?” How will the bilateral dialogue on strategic stability be developed now? What did you learn from the meetings with US colleagues about the New START Treaty? Was it clear whether they are ready to extend it? Did they show any willingness to address issues raised by Russia on US commitments regarding the New START Treaty?
Vladimir Yermakov: On July 1 and 2, we met at the Department of State at the Assistant Secretary of State level. During these meetings, we sent out feelers with a view to resume the strategic dialogue as both presidents instructed. There is an agreement to hold full-scale consultations on strategic issues involving representatives of the relevant departments in Geneva in the middle of July. We are currently drafting the agenda. Neither we, nor the Americans are drawing any red lines. We are gearing up for a sincere and serious in-depth dialogue. We believe this is a good opportunity to resume mutually respectful and constructive talks on the entire range of strategic issues.
Given the understanding at the top level, we discussed the implementation of the New START Treaty and its future prospects. We again expressed concern over its fulfilment by the Americans. We intend to seek a resolution to the current problems in upcoming meetings, including in the Bilateral Consultative Commission format. A regular meeting is scheduled for November.
As for extending the treaty, Washington has not offered any breakthrough ideas. As we understand it, Washington still needs additional time to work out its approach. We can see that it has not yet made any key decisions in this respect. This issue will become increasingly critical as the treaty expiration deadline approaches (February 5, 2021). Naturally, we will continue discussing it.
Russia’s position is well known: if the US removes Russia’s concerns over the US’ illegitimate, unilateral decision to not count many of its strategic offensive arms covered by the treaty, which the Americans declared as “re-equipped”, it would be worth extending it if only to preserve at least some strategic stability and gain time for further constructive dialogue.
Question: Did you discuss the outlook for preserving the INF Treaty and extending the New START Treaty? If so, what were the next moves you agreed to? What is your take on the meeting of the working group on creating conditions for nuclear disarmament? Did it help in any way to move forward on the issue of strategic stability? Does Russia think it makes sense to take part in the next meetings of the group?
Vladimir Yermakov: Indeed, the issue of the INF Treaty was brought up at the meetings at the State Department but the essentially different views on the causes and the nature of the crisis around this treaty remain. Efforts to get back to a detailed discussion of ways to settle each sides’ complaints regarding the INF Treaty have failed so far. We are still ready to address the issue based on mutual transparency measures, as well as to discuss ways to stabilise the situation and ensure predictability in this area after August 2 when the procedure for withdrawing from the treaty, which was launched by Washington, will be completed. However, the Americans have not yet shown any interest in talks like these.
As for the events under the US initiative to create conditions conducive to nuclear disarmament, the American organisers have suggested that the character and subject of discussion should not be disclosed at this point. We would not like to breach our agreement on this.
Formally, we, of course, welcome the fact that our American colleagues have, at last, supported the idea that we have been consistently and persistently pushing for during the past decade – to create favourable conditions for further possible steps towards nuclear disarmament. We see that it is our idea that underlies Washington’s ongoing initiative to set the stage for nuclear disarmament. However, what really matters is not the form the initiative takes but rather its substance. In other words, everything depends on whether all parties will be able to take a path that helps create conditions conducive to nuclear disarmament or if some countries will continue to pay lip service to these efforts while taking steps that further deny us even the possibility of planning joint measures in the field of nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, as we all know, in the past two decades a reverse trend has prevailed – the ruining of the ABM Treaty, the refusal to ratify the CTBT Treaty, the withdrawal from the JCPOA, the increasingly ambitious plans to deploy offensive armaments in outer space and the ongoing so-called joint nuclear missions involving non-nuclear NATO countries. If Washington decides to break this vicious cycle, we, of course, would welcome it. This would mean creating conditions conducive to nuclear disarmament.
As for the current meetings, we naturally have questions regarding their substance and practical results. Nevertheless, the discussion we had in a rather non-formal manner was not useless and we will certainly analyse it and make conclusions.