Embassy of the Russian Federation in the USA
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26 october / 2020

Speech by Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the annual meeting of International Advisory Council of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Prospects of Arms Control

We are meeting one week prior to the US presidential elections. I will try to step back from this undoubtedly very important event and focus on my assessment of the crisis in arms control.

We are witnessing the ongoing collapse of agreements and norms that have taken decades to develop. The level of trust between the participating countries is disastrously diminishing. The arms race is re-emerging, as is the tendency towards unilateral military build-up.

Against this background, the responsibility of Russia and the US – as permanent members of the UN Security Council and major nuclear powers – for maintaining international peace and security is increasing.

Thanks to the agreements between President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump, the Russia-US strategic dialogue has been revitalized.

Several rounds of full-scale interagency consultations, as well as expert meetings on space security, doctrines and warheads, verification and transparency, have been held since late June.

The discussions were substantive in nature. This can be attributed to the high professional level of both delegations composed of the representatives of the relevant departments, including defense agencies in the first place. The two sides confirmed their mutual interest in continuing such dialogue.

Another positive result was the US dropping its utopian demand for China’s immediate involvement in the bilateral arms control process.

However, in the longer run, the administration would not give up on this idea. In our view, the US attempts to put pressure on Beijing are untenable.

Arms control consultations and negotiations must be conducted in a free and voluntary manner with due consideration given to the legitimate interests of all the parties.

We, in turn, are interested in having the United Kingdom and France join the dialogue. They possess nuclear stockpiles comparable to that of China. As NATO members they also closely coordinate their military nuclear policy.

Furthermore, Washington and London tightly cooperate on strategic weapons. British nuclear forces have US Trident 2 SLBMs in their armament. Pentagon takes an active part in maintaining the efficiency of the UK strategic arsenal and its modernization.

This is not to say that Russia-US dialogue is going smoothly. The strategic stability consultations that I mentioned earlier confirmed serious differences existing between the parties on key issues.

The US bluntly refused to extend New START as it was signed. Even though we proposed to do it without any conditions. I would like to remind you that previously the Russian Side voiced its concerns regarding a number of parameters of the Treaty implementation by the United States. We have decided to put off these issues for later consideration.

The United States has, in fact, taken the agreement hostage by conditioning its extension.

To break the deadlock around New START we have decided to make two significant unilateral concessions. First, we agree to extend the Treaty for 1 year instead of 5 that we would prefer. Second, we are ready – jointly with the US – to undertake a political commitment to freeze for the above-mentioned period the number of nuclear warheads that each side possesses.

Should this approach be acceptable for Washington, then the time gained by the extension of the New START Treaty could be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future nuclear and missile arms control that must address all factors affecting strategic stability. These are missile defense, intermediate and shorter-range ground-based missiles, Global Strike systems, hypersonic delivery means, possible outer space weapons, etc.

At this stage, it would be premature to say that we are on the verge of an agreement or even that a common political understanding is within reach. The work continues at the expert level. We hope that all substantial differences will be settled as a result of the dialogue. Finding a compromise is in the interest of not only our two countries but also the security and stability of the whole world.

Let me remind you that the Treaty is virtually the only thing that keeps escalation of the nuclear and missile arms race at bay. This golden standard of arms control successfully fulfills its central task of reducing and limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It also plays an important role in enhancing mutual transparency and predictability. As of mid-October, Russia and the US have conducted 328 on-site inspections and exchanged close to 21 thousand notifications about the status of their strategic nuclear weapons. The sides regularly exchange data on the number of warheads and delivery vehicles as well as telemetry of ICBMs and SLBMs launches.

We call on the United States to demonstrate political wisdom, confirm the responsibility for maintaining strategic stability. Reckless attempts to bargain for benefits in the final days of the operation of New START should be abandoned.

Everybody is expecting us to extend the Treaty and continue the joint work on nuclear and missile arms control.

Another key aspect of maintaining strategic stability is preventing a missile arms race in the wake of the US unilateral withdrawal from the INF Treaty in August 2019.

The Russian initiative to introduce mutual moratoriums on the deployment of the intermediate and shorter-range ground-based missiles in the regions of the world has been categorically rejected by the US and its NATO allies. Moreover, Pentagon is rapidly developing systems previously prohibited under the Treaty and has already conducted two tests of such systems. Washington intends to deploy them in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

The implementation of such plans in the Far East will pose a direct threat to Russia’s national security and nuclear deterrence capability. We will be forced to react.

An even more destabilizing effect will have the deployment of US intermediate and shorter-range ground-based missiles in Europe. Nobody needs the situation on the European continent to regress into a nuclear crisis.
We have enough problems. Today we should not generate more irritants, but deal with the loads of accumulated problems.

Today Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed new steps to stabilize the situation with intermediate and shorter-range missiles.

First, the President has reiterated our adherence to the previously announced moratorium on the deployment of INF missiles. Second, the Russian leader has suggested considering specific options for adopting mutual verification measures in order to address existing concerns. In particular, these are the verification measures with regard to the Aegis Ashore complexes with Mk-41 launchers that are deployed at US and NATO bases in Europe, as well as 9M729 missiles in the Kaliningrad Region.

The President has stated that Russia is ready, in the spirit of good will, to continue not to deploy 9M729 missiles in European Russia, but do so only provided NATO countries take reciprocal steps that preclude the deployment of the weapons earlier prohibited under the INF Treaty in Europe. Russia is ready to search for ways to maintain stability and prevent missile crises “in a world without the INF Treaty” as it applies to the Asia-Pacific region.

The artificial crisis around the Open Skies Treaty (OST) created by the US decision to withdraw that was announced in May does not enhance strategic stability either. The Treaty provides the state parties with a relevant confidence-building and cooperation mechanism, including at the level of their defense departments.

We have repeatedly proved with concrete data that the allegations of Russia’s noncompliance with the OST are baseless. We have got plenty of counter-claims to the United States regarding its implementation of the Treaty.

That said, we are ready to seek mutually acceptable solutions at the negotiating table. Unfortunately, such a solution could not be found at the OST state parties’ special conference on July 6.

Russia’s further actions concerning the OST are not predetermined. We consider all the scenarios. We are ready to continue cooperation in the framework of the Treaty. But a lot will depend on addressing the organizational and technical issues arising from the US decision to withdraw from the Treaty.

We are concerned about the attitude of the United States to the CTBT and the administration’s unwillingness to ratify the Treaty. Media reports on the ongoing discussions within the administration about the possible resumption of nuclear tests also raise questions.

Settlement of these as well as other differences in the arms control realm in many respects depends on progress in the Russian-US dialogue on strategic stability. It is now at a crossroads. Let us just hope that the position that strategic stability problems – with arms control in its core – should be addressed in the first place will finally prevail in the administration. We are ready for a mutually respectful and equal work with the United States. This thesis was once again reiterated by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Valdai Discussion Club forum on October 22. I recommend everybody to pay careful attention to the speech of Russia’s leader.