US and Russia make headway in nuclear talks
OREANDA-NEWS Russia and the US have managed to achieve “significant progress” in talks over resuming nuclear inspections within the New START treaty, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported on Thursday, citing the Foreign Ministry. The sides are also apparently mulling face-to-face negotiations to remedy remaining issues.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, as quoted by the outlet, Moscow and Washington are looking into reviving mutual inspection of nuclear arsenals. The ministry noted that the US and Russia are negotiating “over relevant channels” on how to return “to the full implementation of the treaty” in the element relating to verification mechanisms.
It went on to say that the sides are holding virtual talks within the New START bilateral consultative panel. “At the moment, the possibilities for holding its next session in face-to-face format are being explored,” the ministry added.
Russia and the US are also discussing “what organizational and technical problems need to be solved,” it told the outlet, adding that “significant progress” has been made to remedy a number of issues, but some “considerable difficulties remain.”
These difficulties are said to include Covid-19-related issues that require “a final settlement.” Another major sticking point, apparently, is the West’s sanctions over the Ukraine conflict that prevent Russian specialists from traveling to the US.
The ministry said that after the West had imposed sanctions, “visa problems started to emerge during transit, as did difficulties with making payments for services during inspections,” adding that “all this effectively blocks our ability to carry out inspections on the US territory unimpeded.”
It also told Izvestia that while Russian inspectors cannot reach the US, American officials have no such problems, which “gives the US side unilateral advantages.”
In early August, Moscow informed Washington that it was temporarily withdrawing from the New START inspection regime, citing the sanctions that prevent its inspectors from performing their duties. These included visa restrictions on Russian inspectors and a ban on Russian aircraft in US and EU airspace.
However, in late September Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that Moscow and Washington are seeking to resume inspections, in order to “return to the full implementation of the treaty.”
New START, which was signed in 2010, remains virtually the last arms-control deal between the two nuclear powers since America’s unilateral withdrawal in 2019 from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
The deal limits the number of nuclear warheads that the US and Russia can possess to 1,550 each. It also says that each side must have no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nuclear bombers. The total number of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles must not exceed 800.