WASHINGTON — Russia and the United States plan to meet in the coming weeks to discuss resuming inspections of atomic weapons sites under the New START treaty, a small step toward reviving nuclear control talks. armaments suspended since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Bilateral Advisory Commission would meet in the “near future,” but declined to provide details. He sought to downplay expectations of a breakthrough, but said it was important to ensure that the ability of the two countries to engage in dialogue “does not atrophy”.
“As far as Russia is concerned, of course we are clear-headed,” Price said during a briefing. “We are realistic about the dialogue between the United States and Russia, both about what it can entail and what it can accomplish.”
Two people in Moscow familiar with discussions surrounding the talks said Cairo was the likely location since Switzerland joined in sanctions against Russia for its invasion. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov declined to comment.
Russia barred US inspectors from its nuclear weapons sites in August, citing visa and travel restrictions for Russians it said prevented them from reaching the United States. Both countries had suspended on-site inspections in March 2020 due to COVID-19. pandemic and were discussing how to restart them safely.
The BCC, which handles practical matters on the implementation of the New START agreement, last met in Geneva in October 2021.
While the United States cut off most contact with Russia during the invasion, some channels remain. In Moscow, officials called for the resumption of a broader dialogue, including on a possible successor treaty to New START. The United States said that was not possible until inspections resumed.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed on Monday that the United States had had high-level contact with Russia, while declining to comment on reports that national security adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly recently held secret talks with aides to President Vladimir Putin in a bid to halt the slide toward nuclear escalation.
“We reserve the right to speak directly to senior levels on issues of concern to the United States,” Jean-Pierre said. “This has been happening over the past few months. Our conversations have focused solely on reducing risk in US-Russian relations.
Putin and President Joe Biden’s administration have extended the New START treaty by five years into 2021, giving former Cold War rivals time for new discussions on strategic security. Putin’s attack on Ukraine in February sparked a spiral of confrontation, with the United States spending billions of dollars in military and financial support in Kyiv. The United States has accused Russia of a dangerous nuclear sabre.
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