Russia & U.S Talk Strategic Stability in Vienna

Vienna hosted on 22 June Russian-US consultations on strategic stability. Delegations of the two countries were headed by Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Ryabkov and Special Envoy of the President of the United States for Arms Control and Acting Under Secretary of State Marshall Billingslea.

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"Following the instruction of the presidents of the two countries, the delegations continued discussing the future of arms control, including extending the START Treaty and maintaining stability and predictability in the context of the termination of the INF Treaty, as well as a comprehensive dialogue on resolving international security problems" said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in a press release that followed the talks.

"During the interdepartmental meeting in Vienna yesterday, Ambassador [Marshall] Billingslea and I agreed that work in several fields will continue at the level of experts in the near future," Ryabkov said.

"This is a significant step forward. There we'll discuss both specific issues and also more general conceptual, doctrinal ones. There is a certain layout as regards the topical units. We'll prepare for these events accordingly," he added.

"In our contacts with the Americans, we've long been speaking in favour of making this dialogue more regular and intense, so that it is backed by work at different levels. This matches the position of the president of the Russian Federation that it is important for us to work with the U.S. on the subject of strategic stability and strategic security," continued the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia.

“We, the United States, intend and believe ... that the next arms control agreement must cover all nuclear weapons, not just so-called strategic nuclear weapons,”Billingslea said at the conference that followed the meeting.

As a result of these talks of strategic stability in Vienna, the two delegations agreed one establishing a working group on Space , and on arranging a meeting of experts of strategic stability working group in late July/early August. Yet, disagreements on the extension of the New Start Treaty have not been resolved in this meeting. The main obstacle is the condition of the United States to bring China into the table, which clearly will not happen any time soon.

When the meeting was announced earlier in June, Billingslea called for China to join the talks, and China stated that it had to intention to join. However, just before the talks started, Billingslea expressed his 'disappointment' that China was a "no-show", as if he hadn't already known China's stance.

Expressing his 'surprise' Billingslea tweeted a photo of part of a round table with Chinese flags on it. China's Director General of the Department of Arms Control in the Minidtry of Foreign Affairs of China condemned the move of the American delegation since China did not consent in the first place to take part in the meeting.

Nonetheless, Chinese flags did not appear in the rest of the photos from the meeting, and Billingslea's photo turned out to be staged. It was learned later that Russia disapproved of the flags and asked that they be removed before the meeting started.

China's attitude has been clear and repeatedly stated. On 11 June, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that "China has much smaller nuclear arsenals compared to the US and Russia. The US should drastically reduce its nuclear arms stockpile, creating conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to join in multilateral nuclear disarmament talks."

Ten years ago, the United States and Russia signed the New START treaty which expires on 5 February 2021. Now it is the last treaty capping the nuclear forces of the former Cold War foes, after the US pulled out of INF Treaty. New START has an option to renew for a further five years with the agreement of both parties.

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