The US and Russia agree to hold talks on a nuclear treaty for the first time since the war in Ukraine began


Washington
CNN

The US and Russia have agreed to hold talks on the only existing nuclear treaty between the two countries in the near future, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday.

The New START treaty limits all intercontinental range nuclear weapons deployed by Russia and the US.

The treaty, the only one left governing the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, was extended by five years in February 2021 during the first weeks of Joe Biden’s presidency.

It requires the two countries to allow on-site inspections of each other’s nuclear weapons-related facilities. These inspections were halted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resumption of inspections is expected to be a topic of discussion at upcoming meetings, US officials said.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States are at a standstill following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine without an end to the war, but US officials have seen it as a positive development that Moscow has continued showing interest in the treaty, despite Putin’s alarming nuclear threats as the conflict progresses.

Russia has expressed its willingness to discuss expanding the treaty and the US has said negotiations will only take place once on-site inspections resume.

Complications arose earlier this year after the United States tried to resume inspections, but Russia rejected the efforts, citing alleged US efforts to “deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory.” . Price said at the time that the “US sanctions and restrictive measures imposed as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine are fully compatible” with the New START treaty.

The treaty meetings take place under the title of the bilateral consultative commission, the BCC.

“We have agreed that the BCC will meet in the near future under the terms of the New START treaty. The work of the BCC is confidential, but we look forward to a constructive session,” Price said.

The last time a BCC was convened was over a year ago in October 2021.

The treaty limits both nations to deploying 1,550 nuclear warheads in delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bombers.

CNN reported last week that Russian military officials had discussed how and under what conditions Russia would use a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to a US intelligence assessment described to CNN by multiple sources who have read it

The assessment, prepared by the National Intelligence Council, is not a high-confidence product and is not raw intelligence but analysis, several people who have read it told CNN. For this reason, some officials believe that the conversations reflected in the document may have been taken out of context, and do not necessarily indicate that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

The United States has yet to see any indication that Putin has decided to take the drastic step of using one, the officials said, and Putin is not believed to have participated in the discussions described in the intelligence assessment .

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