Russia will not start a new round of talks on further arms reductions until Washington changes its stance on the global deployment of U.S. missile defenses, especially in Europe, a senior Russian diplomat said.
U.S. officials have repeatedly urged Russia to continue discussions on arms cuts, including in conventional weapons, following the ratification of a new strategic arms reduction treaty (New START) in 2011.
“Our position is that in order to move forward [in nuclear and conventional arms cuts] we should implement the existing agreements [especially in the framework of the New START treaty],” Grigory Berdennikov, the Russian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Friday.
“But how are we supposed to move forward if the United States refuses to curb its missile defenses?” he said.
The missile defense issue has become a major stumbling block in the announced “reset” of relations between Moscow and Washington.
Russia retains staunch opposition to the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense systems near its borders, claiming they would be a security threat. The United States and NATO insist that the so-called “missile shield” would defend NATO members against missiles from North Korea and Iran and would not be directed at Russia.
Moscow insists it should receive legal guarantees from Washington that its European missile defense shield will not target Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.
“We are certainly hoping that they [the Americans] will change their stance on missile defense, because at this point there is no progress [in missile defense talks] whatsoever,” Berdennikov said. “We cannot do anything else while there is no clarity on missile defense issues.”
The five Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear-weapon states, or “P5,” met in Washington on June 27-29 to continue discussions on issues related to nonproliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and disarmament, including confidence-building, transparency, and verification experiences.