Stable strategic condition

Elena Chernenko

The first Russian-American consultations on strategic stability since the new administration came to power in the United States will take place in Geneva today (28 July). Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden agreed to restart the dialogue on this topic during the recent summit. But the heads of state did not agree on the agenda of the talks – the delegations of the two countries have yet to do this. Russia, to all appearances, has already decided on its wishes.

The agreement to resume the dialogue on strategic stability was the main practical result of the June summit of the Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. A joint statement by the heads of state specified that by restarting this mechanism, they are seeking to “lay the foundation for future arms control and risk mitigation measures.” The interdepartmental delegations of the two countries will start implementing their agreements tomorrow – in Geneva, the same city where the heads of state met. The Russian negotiating team will be headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

During an online seminar recently organized by the Center for Energy and Security (CEB, Russia) and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS, USA), Sergei Ryabkov detailed what Moscow expects from the meeting in Geneva. First of all, he expressed the hope that the resumption of the dialogue on strategic stability would improve relations between Russia and the United States and strengthen their security. Recall that during the Donald Trump administration, bilateral contacts on this topic began very late, almost at the end of the presidential term. As a result, despite the intensive schedule of meetings and the willingness of the parties to compromise, they failed to achieve the main thing – to extend the expiring Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms (START) for five years. With Joe Biden, this issue was resolved in a matter of days – even without face-to-face meetings,

At the same time, Sergei Ryabkov noted that starting new negotiations in Geneva, the parties are entering “uncharted territory”, since they will have to try to integrate into the architecture of strategic stability weapons and technologies that were not there ten years ago, when the START Treaty was signed. Recalling that Moscow and Washington already have many disagreements in the strategic sphere, the Deputy Minister nevertheless made it clear that Russia is ready for dialogue with the United States, since these two countries, possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, bear a special responsibility for security. in the world.

We believe that the time has come to resume a systematic, comprehensive, re-sult-oriented dialogue with the US on strategic issues, ”said Sergei Ryabkov.

And he told how the Russian side imagines the agenda of this dialogue.

First of all, according to Sergei Ryabkov, it is necessary to conduct “a joint review of the security concerns of each of the parties. ” Then you can start discussing how to tackle these problems “on an equal and mutually acceptable basis,” including through arms control.

Russia, he said, offers the US to enter the new “security equation”. “It should include all factors that affect strategic security. First of all, the entire spectrum of nuclear and non-nuclear offensive and defensive weapons with strategic potential must be taken into account, ”the Russian diplomat explained. According to him, such an integrated approach is more in line with modern realities than previous agreements, which covered only a certain class of weapons.

Speaking about offensive weapons, Sergei Ryabkov stressed that from the point of view of Russia, it is important to discuss nuclear and conventional systems that can be used to deliver a counter-force strike against targets on the other side in order to drastically weaken or neutralize its response potential. At the same time, it followed from his speech that Moscow proposes to continue focusing on means of delivery of warheads and corresponding platforms.

As for the ammunition itself, according to the Deputy Foreign Minister, Russia considers it expedient to focus on discussing the deployed part of the arsenals “posing a direct military threat.”

Note that Rose Gottemoeller, who headed the American delegation at the START negotiations, in a recent interview with Kommersant stated the need to start negotiating the limitation of all warheads, including those in storage. “It will not be easy to agree on specific measures in this area, storage sites for warheads is a very delicate area, verification measures will not be easy to agree on,” she admitted. At the same time, Rose Gottemoeller called this issue a “priority” for the United States. Matthew Rojansky, director of the George Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies in Washington, said during the CEB and CNS event that non-deployed warheads should also be on the negotiating table. Acting representatives of the US administration have not yet made public statements on this score.

Speaking about strategic defensive systems, that is, anti-missile defense systems, Sergei Ryabkov stressed that Russia will insist on maintaining the principle of an inextricable relationship between strategic offensive and defensive weapons. According to him, this principle underlies the very concept of strategic stability.

He touched upon two more topics that the Russian delegation intends to raise in Geneva: preventing an arms race in outer space and ensuring the safety of outer space activities, as well as preventing a new missile crisis against the backdrop of the collapse of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles.

According to Sergei Ryabkov, the issue of ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles – both nuclear and conventional – requires priority attention. He recalled that Russia had proposed introducing a verifiable moratorium on the deployment of such systems. “We are still ready to discuss this urgent issue. We hope that our (American – Kommersant ) colleagues will act wisely and show responsibility, ”said Sergei Ryabkov.

At the same time, he warned that “the space for diplomacy is rapidly shrinking,” as the United States has already begun to create previously banned systems. According to him, Russia will unilaterally adhere to the moratorium, but only until the moment when the United States decides to deploy appropriate weapons. “This would be a very wrong development of events, detrimental to regional and global security, so we once again urge our colleagues in Washington not to move in the direction of this possible new missile crisis,” the head of the Russian delegation said.

The US delegation to the Geneva consultations will be led by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Meanwhile, Sergei Ryabkov’s immediate counterpart in the new administration is Deputy Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins. She will also go to Geneva, but not as the head of the delegation, since the Senate was able to approve her in office only on July 21 (before that, her candidacy was blocked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who demanded new sanctions from the White House regarding the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline ). Wendy Sherman has yet to make statements about US expectations from the Geneva talks. Bonnie Jenkins on Twitter wrote that in her post, among other things, she will seek to “reduce the risk of nuclear war through effective arms control” and “limiting the nuclear potential of Russia and China.”

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