Russian Deputy FM: Any Agreement to Replace New START Treaty Requires Discussing US Missile Defence

A five-year extension of the arms reduction treaty came into force earlier this month, as Moscow and Washington managed to find common ground before the deal expired to preserve global peace and security.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has stated that any possible replacement of the New START treaty with a new pact would be impossible without a discussion concerning US missile defence.

“If the US is not ready to move on [this] then there are little chances of having a new deal to replace the New START, we should focus on the missile defence problem. Otherwise, arms control will be in question”, Ryabkov said at a press conference.

The diplomat also noted that Russia and the United States have begun negotiating a schedule of checks and consultations that are part of the extended New START deal.

“As for inspections, they have to be renewed, we are now working on it. We are launching a procedure that involves different agencies to restore all of that”, Ryabkov said.

According to him, the US is duly complying with the extended New START treaty, but there is still an issue with the records for ballistic missiles.

“For example, when it comes to the New START treaty, we can see that Washington is fairly responsible regarding its compliance, except the well-known issues with the listing of some of the reworked missiles. We have mentioned it and will keep talking about it because the treaty has been extended”, Ryabkov said.

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) entered into force on 5 February 2011. The agreement stipulates that each side will reduce its nuclear arsenals, aiming to decrease the total number of weapons in 7 years, so it does not exceed 700 intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missiles on submarines and heavy bombers, as well as 1,550 warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.

New START was set to expire on 5 February 2021 but was prolonged until February 2026.

Ryabkov also commented on the prospects on resuming other pacts with Washington. According to him, Moscow would consider returning to the Open Skies Treaty if the United States changed its decision to leave.

“If the US, as it reviews its foreign policy priority and analyses the legacy of [ex-President Donald] Trump’s administration, decides that an alternative is possible and signals that Washington is ready to start returning to the Open Skies treaty, we might somehow adjust the decision to launch internal procedures [for leaving the treaty]”, the diplomat said.

At the same time, the official noted that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which expired in 2019 can’t be restored in its previous form.

“In a nutshell, I do not think that there are any prospects to restore the INF in the form it had for 30 years”, Ryabkov said.

On 21 May 2020, President Donald Trump said the US would pull out of the Open Skies Treaty due to alleged violations by Russia, which Moscow denied. In November, the American side officially left the deal.

In response, Russia urged all of the members of the treaty to follow the agreement and not to provide the data they get during observational flights to third countries, and subsequently left the deal, as no guarantees were received from the other signatories.

Russia and US Discussing Iranian Nuclear Deal

The Russian Deputy FM also pointed out the intensified contacts with the United States regarding Iran nuclear deal.

“There are some elements linked to intensive, very intensive contacts of the remaining parties to the deal. I mean Iran and Europeans and us and China. And the contacts of all of those parties with the United States in the last few days and weeks, since the arrival of the new administration”, Ryabkovsaid.

Russia calls on Europe and the US to make sure that Iran enjoys economic benefits in exchange for compliance with the JCPOA, he added.

Tehran downgraded its nuclear programme in 2015, after signing the deal with the P5+1 group of countries (the US, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom – plus Germany) and the European Union.

In response, sanctions against the Islamic Republic were cancelled. However, in 2018 Washington abandoned the deal and reinstated sanctions, which forced Iran to gradually suspend its obligations under the agreement.

At the start of January 2021, Iran’s atomic energy organisation announced that the nation had succeeded in enriching uranium at 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, boosting its nuclear capacity.

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