US, Russia Agree To Re-enter Nuclear Treaty Talks For 1st Time Since Ukraine Invasion
Signaling a rare breakthrough at a moment that direct communications are almost non-existent, the US has confirmed this week that talks with Russia will move forward on maintenance and renewal of the single existing nuclear treaty between the two sides. In early August, Russia formally notified the Biden administration that it suspected inspections of its nuclear arsenal under the terms of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced that New START will be focus of bilateral talks in the near future. "We have agreed that the BCC [Bilateral Consultative Commission] will meet in the near future under the terms of the New START Treaty. The work of the BCC is confidential, but we do hope for a constructive session," he said in a Tuesday press briefing.
The last meeting of the BCC was over a year ago, on October 2021, with central aspects of the treaty since stalled due to attempts of the US to resume nuclear arsenal inspections on Russian soil, which Moscow rebuffed.
Russia had complained that it was actually the US side which "deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory."
But the State Department cited the invasion of Ukraine and resulting sanctions, including travel restrictions, placed on Russian officials: "US sanctions and restrictive measures imposed as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine are fully compatible" with the New START treaty, a prior statement had said.
Price claimed in his fresh Tuesday statements that "we believe deeply, around the world, in the transformative power and the importance of diplomacy and dialogue." He added: "When it comes to Russia, of course, we are clear eyed, we’re realistic about what dialogue between the United States and Russia can – both what it can entail and what it can accomplish."
"We – we have focused on risk reduction in these conversations, but we’ve been very intentional about seeing to it that the ability of our two countries to pass messages back and forth and to engage in dialogue has not, does not atrophy."
Back in August, the Kremlin responded with anger after President Biden suggested that Russia is not a "willing partner" on nuclear arms control.
"But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith. And Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and constitutes an attack on fundamental tenets of international order. In this context, Russia should demonstrate that it is ready to resume work on nuclear arms control with the United States," Biden had said on Aug.1st.
The resumption of talks is a hopeful sign after months of ratcheting nuclear rhetoric over Ukraine. Both sides have expressed willingness to avoid escalation on concerns that the nuclear armed superpowers could enter direct conflict. However, Moscow has condemned what it says is the US fueling a full-fledged proxy war utilizing Ukrainian forces.