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Russian official says US must change policy on Russia to end New START suspension

Jan 08, 2024Jan 08, 2024

A top Russian official said the United States must change its policy toward Russia for his country to consider rejoining a nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, told reporters that the Russian government's February decision to suspend its participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is "unshakable" regardless of any U.S. actions in response to the suspension, the Russian state-run news outlet RIA Novosti reported Friday.

Ryabkov said the U.S. must abandon its "fundamentally hostile" policy toward Russia for it to possibly rejoin the terms of the treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a few months ago that Russia would suspend its participation in New START, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty it has in place with the United States.

He said at the time that the decision was the result of the U.S. and its NATO allies openly supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia and wanting Russia to be defeated.

"They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time," Putin said.

Russia has repeatedly called on Ukraine's Western allies to stay out of the conflict since Russian forces initially launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February. It has also warned that continued support could escalate the conflict, but these warnings have mostly not deterred Ukraine's allies from continuing to send weapons and financial support.

The New START Treaty sets up caps on the number of nuclear weapons that each country possesses and broad inspections of nuclear sites. Putin said in February that Russia was not completely withdrawing from the treaty, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would still abide by the treaty's caps on the number of weapons allowed.

But the suspension did spike fears of rising tensions between Russia and the West, most significantly the U.S.

The State Department announced Thursday that it was launching countermeasures to Russia's suspension of the treaty, including the withholding of notifications that the treaty requires and no longer facilitating inspection activities on U.S. territory.

But Ryabkov said these measures would not deter Russia.

"Neither the so-called US countermeasures in connection with our suspension of START, nor the parallel signals allegedly sounding in favor of a dialogue between the administration change anything in the position that we have repeatedly stated, which is determined by the President of Russia and is fully worked out by all relevant ministries and departments , including the Foreign Ministry, of course, the military and everyone else," he said.

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