Russia dashed hopes of a deal on nuclear weapons with U.S. President Donald Trump before next month’s presidential election, dismissing a call by Washington for a freeze on their arsenals as “unacceptable.”
“If the Americans need to report to their superiors that they allegedly reached agreement with Russia before their elections, they won’t get it,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said late Tuesday in comments to local media that he confirmed Wednesday to Bloomberg News.
The U.S. proposal for a nuclear freeze that also covers tactical weapons “has long been known to us” and is rejected by Russia because “we need to deal with their new strategic-range” conventional arms too, including in space and missile defense, said Ryabkov, who leads the Russian negotiating team.
He was responding after U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea said Tuesday there was an agreement in principle for a deal between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If the Americans would agree with the documents we gave them, then an agreement could be reached tomorrow,” Ryabkov said. “But as the differences are too big, I can’t imagine what grounds our colleagues in Washington have to suggest such things.”
The negotiations are taking place as the clock ticks down on the expiry in February of the New START treaty, the last remaining accord limiting the nuclear arsenals of the two former Cold War adversaries. The Trump administration has been reluctant about Russia’s call for the treaty to be extended, pushing for a broader arms-control agreement that includes China.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday he doesn’t see any chance of an extension of the treaty, which Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden supports.
Despite Russia’s tough stance, the Kremlin has signaled it still wants a deal. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday it’s “the priority” for Russia to reach an agreement with the U.S. before New START expires, and he expressed concern it may become harder after the Nov. 3 U.S. elections.
Talks are continuing between Russia and the U.S. but so far there are no “concrete” agreements, Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday.
The U.S. is demanding a return to “intrusive” inspections as well as a freeze on the entire nuclear arsenal including tactical weapons that according to Washington account for 55% of Russian nuclear capabilities, Lavrov said.
The top U.S. negotiator, Billingslea, on Tuesday signaled Washington is ready to compromise on its demand for binding guarantees China joins the arms talks. But he urged Russia to show the “political will” to strike a deal.
Photo: A Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile at Kubinka Patriot Park outside Moscow. – Source: AFP via Getty Images