Ambassador Anatoly Antonov's opening remarks at The Brookings Institution conversation on Russia-US relations
The international community is concerned over the state of the international system of arms control. We share this concern. Despite Russia’s recent new initiatives, today there is no certainty that we will succeed in improving the situation. Even our most straightforward proposal to reaffirm the Reagan-Gorbachev statement that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought has not found support in Washington.
Lately, we have been witnessing a further degradation of arms control. Just few days ago the United States withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty and put the agreement on the brink of collapse. We also bear in mind the erroneous steps of the current U.S. administration with regard to the INF Treaty which also ceased to exist. The Russian proposal to declare a moratorium on INF missiles deployment in regions of the world have not received any positive reaction yet. Special focus is on Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
The situation around the CTBT is complicated as well. We see that the United States does not intend to ratify the Treaty, at least for now. It is clear that other major countries – on which CTBT’s entry into force depends – watch the US closely and wait for the administration to make its move.
Today the question before us is whether we will be able to save the arms control system together. With the necessary consent, will we manage to adapt the system to current challenges and threats or abandon multilateral mechanisms that determine strategic stability and predictability? Will we build relations on the basis of equality or give up and submit to the will of one state?
Russia’s position on arms control is consistent. We have always advocated for strong, peaceful and stable international relations, maintaining strategic stability, enhancing every country’s national security. I am sure that, like Russia, every state is interested in mutual predictability and military risks reduction.
We do not support the idea of creating “islands of stability”, areas or countries with excess threatening military potentials – especially, at the expense of defense capabilities of other states.
Over the recent years we have repeatedly reached out to NATO countries, first of all to the United States, with proposals to engage in serious substantial efforts on strengthening strategic stability.
Our proposals have never taken the form of ultimatums. Those have always been invitations to a dialogue aimed at reaching mutually acceptable, equitable agreements which would address concerns of every member of the international community. An effective architecture of international arms control can be restored only on the basis of indivisible security and parity.
Our approaches to potential agreements may be different. But I believe the aspiration to preserve peace is what we share.
In this context the fate of New START is perhaps the key issue for future arms control. No one has ever said that the Treaty is perfect. We managed to cover many issues in New START but there are still problems that require further discussion. The agreements enshrined in the Treaty were the maximum that Russia and the United States could reach at the time it was signed almost eleven years ago.
All these years neither the United States, nor Russia, nor the international community criticized New START. Many call it the gold standard of arms control agreements. It is only in the last few months when our American colleagues have suddenly found some aspects of the Treaty detrimental to the US national security.
We have never made a secret of our desire to save New START – not to secure some pseudo-advantage, but to prevent Russian-US relations in the area of strategic security from collapsing. We need time to work out new agreements that would address the new security threats and challenges emerged in recent years.
That is why as early as last December Russia officially proposed to the United States to extend New START without any preconditions. In doing so, we put aside our concerns which we repeatedly raised with our American colleagues about certain procedures the United States used to fulfill its Treaty obligations.
For quite a while we could not secure the consent of the United States to resume a serious dialogue. In fact, we succeeded in reestablishing contacts with only in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential elections. As a result, we are running out of time to extend New START as it will expire on February 5, 2021.
After difficult consultations with our American colleagues two months ago Russia announced its readiness to meet Washington halfway on two key issues. In particular, we agreed to a one-year extension of the Treaty – while our preference is a five-year term – and to freeze the parties’ nuclear warheads for the mentioned period. Moscow expressed its willingness to formalize this in a form of politically binding framework agreement. At that we stressed that Washington should not put forward any additional conditions.
We assumed that, in the negotiations that would follow the New START extension, the two sides would have an opportunity to reach agreement on missile defense, ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, Global Strike systems, hypersonic delivery vehicles, future space weapons, and other factors causing serious national security concerns for Russia.
However, the administration has not shared our approach and, within the framework agreement, tried to get us to agree to the inclusion of a harsh Cold War-era verification regime of the freeze and the development of some definitions of the subject of the future treaties; that is to say, to get ahead of the results of the potential negotiations.
I recall the time eleven years ago when distinguished Ms. Rose Gottemoeller and our delegation started the negotiations. Back then the American colleagues talked about the redundancy of the previous START I verification mechanism. They proposed to move away from the Cold War stereotypes. They sought to convince us of the need to streamline verification procedures. And we agreed to that.
Today, the Treaty provides the necessary level of transparency and predictability. The United States and Russia receive information on the current state of each other’s strategic nuclear forces. We have carried out hundreds on-site inspections. We have also exchanged tens of thousands of notifications. All this – within the framework of the New START verification mechanism.
An important result of the implementation of the Treaty is that the parties have reached the agreed limits for deployed strategic offensive weapons. The total number of deployed warheads has been cut by one-third. The number of deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles has reduced by more than half.
Thus, New START has confirmed its key role in strengthening strategic stability and mutual trust. In addition to serving U.S. and Russian national security goals, it signals to the world that our two countries are serious in their efforts to strengthen global peace and security. Finally, the agreement is a significant contribution of the two great powers to the implementation of the well-known Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
It is important to emphasize here that our country needs New START as much as the United States does. Russia is a predictable nuclear power. Under no circumstances we are going to engage in an arms race that we are openly threatened with. We play responsibly our role of a guarantor of international security and will do everything necessary to preserve strategic security – first of all, to ensure defense of the Russian state, even in the absence of the Treaty.
Today, there are a lot of debates about better formats of potential arms control agreements. There are frequent calls in the United States to involve China. Our priority is to engage the United Kingdom and France in the arms control negotiations. They are members of NATO – an organization that positions itself as a nuclear alliance. That is why we cannot ignore the nuclear weapons capabilities of London and Paris.
I would like to stress that we are open to a multilateral dialogue. At the same time, we believe that forcing anyone to participate in such discussions is a counterproductive approach.
Any negotiations should result in enhanced national security of all countries and lower levels of their weapon arsenals. We are ready for such work.