by Morgan Artyukhina
Feb 16, 2021
Photo : US Department of Defense//Scott Howe
Moscow’s deputy foreign minister for non-proliferation and arms control, Sergei Ryabkov, recently said Russia may be able to return to some of the many treaties shredded by the Trump administration – but not all of them.
“We’ll look at other ways to advance strategic stability with Russia, even as we’re very clear about the actions that they’re taking … But we have to be able to work on both fronts,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told US National Public Radio in a Tuesday interview.
Just weeks ago, the administration of US President Joe Biden reached an agreement with Moscow to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) by five years. The nuclear weapons-limiting agreement was set to expire on February 5, 2021, and the outgoing Trump administration showed essentially no interest in saving it.
Former US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of numerous international treaties intended to promote strategic stability, including several in which his administration claimed Russia was violating their terms. In 2019, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia and in 2020, the US withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies.
The former banned ground-based missiles with ranges judged to increase the risk of an accidental nuclear exchange, while the latter included a host of nations aside from Russia and the US and allowed reconnaissance overflights of other nations’ territories in the interest of defusing tensions.
The US and Russia were also party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an eight-party 2015 that concerned Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The US withdrew from that agreement in 2018, prompting a dramatic increase in Middle East tensions and encouraging Iran to begin stepping away from its own obligations under the deal.
Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow was open to rejoining the Open Skies Treaty if the US is. However, he rejected the notion either nation could return to the INF in the form it was when it lapsed.
“If the US, as it reviews its foreign policy priority and analyses the legacy of Trump’s administration, decides that an alternative is possible and signals that Washington is ready to start returning to the Open Skies treaty, we might somehow adjust the decision to launch internal procedures [for leaving the treaty]”, the diplomat said.
Blinken was not specific as to what measures he thought would increase strategic stability with Russia. However, he made clear the administration’s overall intent to treat Russia as a malign actor.
“It’s very, I think, clear to the world where the concerns that we have with Russia’s behavior and Russia’s actions. And indeed we’ve ordered reviews and investigations on a number of fronts where Russia has taken egregious actions that undermine our interests and values. The poisoning using a chemical weapon of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader. The interference in our elections. The cyberattack, the infamous so-called Solar Winds attack. All of these things and others are under review,” the diplomat told NPR