Russia postpones nuclear arms control talks with US, State Department says



The Biden administration accuses Russia of postponing meetings to discuss a key nuclear arms control agreement between the two countries that was due to begin Tuesday in Egypt, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision had been taken « unilaterally » by Russia.

Meetings on the New START treaty – the only remaining agreement regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals – were due to take place in the wake of Moscow’s nuclear attacks on Ukraine and complications with treaty-related inspections. US officials have repeatedly stressed the need for dialogue on nuclear issues to reduce risk.

In a statement Monday, the State Department spokesperson said, « The United States and the Russian Federation were to convene a New START Treaty Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) meeting in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss the implementation of the New START treaty on Tuesday, November 29.

« The Russian side has informed the United States that Russia has unilaterally postponed the meeting and said it will propose new dates, » the spokesperson said.

Russia has provided no reason for the United States to postpone the talks, a senior State Department official told CNN. Moscow informed the United States of its decision in « the last few days », the official said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry told Russian state media RIA Novosti that the talks had been postponed, but did not give a reason for the delay.

“The session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the Russian-American START Treaty, originally scheduled for Cairo (November 29 – December 6), will not take place on the dates indicated. The event has been postponed to a later date,” said said the ministry.

The date of the postponed talks remains uncertain. The State Department spokesperson said the United States « stands ready to postpone as soon as possible because resuming inspections is a priority to maintain the treaty as an instrument of stability. »

The New START treaty limits the number of deployed nuclear weapons within intercontinental range that the United States and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides will soon have to start negotiating another arms control deal.

Under the treaty, Washington and Moscow are allowed to carry out inspections of each other’s weapons sites, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic inspections have been halted since 2020.

« It’s very unusual and very unfortunate that the Russians have, at the 11th hour, postponed this meeting that they’ve indicated they want to have, » Daryl Kimball, executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association, told CNN. United States.

Kimball said the meeting is “essential to resolving issues that have delayed the resumption of on-site inspections under New START” and “an important step towards formal negotiations between the two countries on a new arms control agreement. nuclear ».

Both the United States and Russia have expressed a desire to reach a nuclear arms control agreement beyond 2026, when New START is due to expire. Kimball said it is in the mutual interest of countries to maintain limits on their nuclear stockpiles.

« President Biden has been very clear about his commitment to negotiate to maintain the arms control structure beyond the expiration of START in 2026. And we remain committed to that goal, » said Elizabeth Rood, the top American diplomat in Moscow, to RIA Novosti.

“In the meantime, we will continue to conduct discussions within the framework of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, which is the mechanism of the Treaty. And we will wait for the opportunity to resume the strategic dialogue,” added Rood.

Administration officials said willingness to discuss arms control deal even as Russia wages war in Ukraine demonstrates U.S. commitment to diplomacy and risk mitigation of nuclear disaster.

Washington « has channels to manage risks with the Russian Federation, particularly nuclear risks, » Rood said, adding that « that was the purpose of CIA Director Burns’ meeting with his Russian counterpart. »

This story has been updated with additional details.

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