U.S. proposes arms control talks with Russia as Cold War-era weapons pact nears collapse
President Trump’s senior arms control adviser told reporters Thursday that the U.S. has proposed holding discussions with Russia next week as a landmark bilateral weapons agreement between nuclear powers teeters on collapse.
Andrea Thompson, the administration’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, reportedly said during a breakfast event in D.C. that the U.S. offered to discuss arms control with Russia on the sidelines of an upcoming United Nations meeting in Beijing.
The potential talks would occur ahead of a Feb. 2 deadline for Russia to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a Cold War-era weapons agreement that the Obama and Trump administrations have accused Moscow of violating by developing a new missile system, the 9M729.
Mr. Trump threatened to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the INF last year, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration would follow through unless Russia destroys the 9M729 by next month’s deadline.
Recalling a recent meeting with Russian counterparts, Ms. Thompson told reporters that she is “not particularly optimistic” Moscow will comply in time.
“It wasn’t the normal bluster, propaganda, the kind of dramatics that associate some of these meetings,” Ms. Thompson said, Defense News reported. “But as I said before, we didn’t break any new ground. There was no new information.
“The Russians acknowledged having the system but continued to say in their talking points it didn’t violate the INF treaty despite showing them, repeated times, the intelligence and information” indicating otherwise, she said.
The U.S. will “suspend our obligations” under the INF treaty unless Russia complies, she reiterated, according to Reuters.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said last week that Moscow offered to let the U.S. visually inspect the missile system.
“The only way you can get the system back into compliance is to destroy the missile,” Ms. Thompson responded Thursday, The Hill reported. “There’s no way to alter it, there’s no way to change it, there’s no way to adjust the fuel cycle, and we’ve laid that out to them repeated times.”
Signed in 1987 by former President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union, the INF bans land-based missiles capable of reaching a distance of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The U.S. would formally abandon the treaty six months after declaring its intent.