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Russia shoots down US proposal to restart nuclear arms control talks

Russia’s top diplomat on Thursday rejected a U.S. proposal to continue nuclear arms control talks, arguing it is impossible to hold discussions in the wake of the U.S.’s continued support to Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the proposal to resume negotiations “unacceptable” during his annual news conference Thursday in Moscow. He also asserted that Washington needs to alter its policy toward Russia about the country’s ongoing war with Ukraine before any discussions can move forward, The Associated Press reported.

“We do not see the slightest interest on the part of either the United States or NATO to settle the Ukrainian conflict and listen to Russia’s concerns,” Lavrov said, per a translation by Reuters.

Lavrov’s rebuke comes months after White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. is willing to renew bilateral arms control discussions with Russia and China “without preconditions.”

Sullivan, in his June speech, noted “without preconditions” does not mean “without accountability” and stressed the U.S. will still hold nuclear powers responsible for “reckless behavior.”

While relations between Russia and the U.S. have become increasingly tense in recent years, Sullivan argued it is in neither of the two countries’ best interests “to embark on an open-ended competition in strategic nuclear forces.”

Russia responded to Sullivan’s remarks in a diplomatic paper in late December, outlining several of Levrov’s most recent points, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Lavrov on Thursday claimed Washington’s call for renewed talks is underscored by a want to resume inspections of Russia’s nuclear weapons site, according to the AP. The Russian foreign minister also called the U.S.’s demands “indecent” in light of Ukraine’s attacks against Russia’s nuclear-capable bomber bases during the war, the news wire added.

“We have declared you an enemy, but we’re ready to talk about how we could look at your strategic nuclear arsenal again, that’s something different,” Lavrov said, per an AP translation.

He continued, calling the push a way for the U.S. to “try to establish control over our nuclear arsenal and minimize nuclear risks for itself.” But, he noted, “those risks are emerging as a result of forceful pressure on our country.”

The disagreement over resumed talks is sparking concerns of a new arms race as the New START treaty is set to expire in 2026. The treaty, signed by then-presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, puts limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and allows for on-site inspections to ensure compliance.

Those inspections were stopped in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not resume. Putin last February suspended Russia’s participation in the START treaty, accusing the U.S. and NATO of “hypocrisy and cynicism” for their support of Ukraine.

The Biden administration has expressed steadfast support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia and has authorized billions to be given to Kyiv. The White House is trying to push more funding for Ukraine through Congress but is being met with resistance from some Republicans who want foreign aid to be paired with stricter border policies.

Lavrov alleged the West has blocked talks on ending the conflict and has encouraged ramped-up attacks on Russia, the AP reported.

“Such encouragement and the transfer of relevant weapons shows that the West doesn’t want any constructive solution,” Lavrov said. “The West is pushing toward the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis, and that raises new strategic risks.”

Asked if Russia’s tensions with the West over Ukraine could resemble the 1962 Missile Crisis —  when the U.S. and the Soviet Union came closest to a nuclear conflict — he cautioned against the West’s encouragement of Ukraine to strike targets in Russia.

The Associated Press contributed.

Source: The Hill

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