Russia downplays hopes for upcoming nuclear talks with U.S. in Egypt

  • Nuclear inspection talks will be held in Cairo
  • The minister said there is no quick breakthrough in the prospect
  • The pact is the last surviving pillar of US-Russia arms control

LONDON, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Russia said on Friday it did not expect a quick breakthrough in talks with the United States on continuing nuclear weapons inspections it said would take place soon in Cairo.

The two countries agreed in March 2020 to end joint inspections under the New START treaty – the last surviving pact to limit their strategic nuclear arsenals – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then they have failed to reach a deal to continue them.

The fact that talks will take place at all is a sign that both sides want to at least maintain dialogue at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has brought relations between them to their most confrontational point in the past 60 years.

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But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov played down expectations of a breakthrough at the meeting, which he said will take place in late November-early December in the Egyptian capital.

“This is not a problem that started today or yesterday and can hardly be solved in a few days,” Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Russia suspended cooperation and inspections under the treaty in August, blaming travel bans imposed by Washington and its allies on the war in Ukraine.

The US State Department said this week that “the measures taken as a result of Russia’s unexpected war against Ukraine do not prevent Russian inspectors from conducting inspections of the New START Treaty in the United States”, and hopes that the upcoming meeting will lead to the resumption of inspections.

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New START, which came into force in 2011, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of missiles and land-based bombers and submarines to deliver them.

Shortly after taking office last year, US President Joe Biden agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the agreement, which was then just weeks away from expiring, for another five years.

The Kremlin told the United States in August that it was time to negotiate a replacement and that global security would be weakened if the pact was allowed to expire in 2026 without a successor.

Fears of a nuclear confrontation have grown since the start of the war, as Putin has warned the world of the size and power of Moscow’s arsenal and warned he is ready to use all means at Russia’s disposal to defend its “territorial integrity”.

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US President Joe Biden said last month that the world stood closer to “Armageddon” than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, after Putin moved to annex four regions of Ukraine – an act condemned as illegal by Kyiv, its Western allies and most. members of the United Nations – and put them under Russia’s nuclear umbrella.

Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; edited by Guy Faulconbridge

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Mark Trevelyan

Thomson Reuters

Chief writer of Russia and CIS. Worked as a journalist on 7 continents and reported from 40+ countries, with postings in London, Wellington, Brussels, Warsaw, Moscow and Berlin. Covered the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Security Correspondent from 2003 to 2008. Speaks French, Russian and (rusty) German and Polish.

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