Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Wednesday that the US and Russia were discussing the possibility of resuming talks on New START, the last nuclear arms control treaty between the two powers.
“The topic has been repeatedly discussed through working channels of late. We are hopefully at a stage where debates on the prospects for holding another meeting of our Bilateral Consultative Commission as part of this (New START) treaty may begin,” Ryabkov said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
The Bilateral Consultative Commission is a compliance and implementation body that was established by the New START treaty. When asked about Ryabkov’s comments, the State Department wouldn’t confirm if the US and Russia were discussing possible commission talks but said the first step would be to resume New START inspections that were paused due to COVID-19.
“The first step toward progress is to resume inspections under the New START Treaty. Inspections were paused for COVID reasons. Both sides can safely resume inspections and the United States is prepared to work with Russia in the New START Treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission to achieve that end,” a State Department spokesperson told Antiwar.com in an email on Wednesday.
Russia recently said it “temporarily” suspended US inspections of its nuclear weapons under New START because sanctions were preventing Russian inspectors from being able to travel to the US. The State Department previously denied that sanctions were preventing New START inspections.
The New START limits the deployment of warheads, missiles, and bombers and is due to expire in 2026. Before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US and Russia were engaged in talks on renewing the treaty. But the US cut off the talks after the invasion.
Throughout the war, Russian officials have repeatedly said that they would resume arms control talks with the US but said Washington hadn’t shown any interest. In a statement on August 1, President Biden sent mixed signals to Russia by saying his administration was ready to negotiate a replacement for New START but also suggesting talks won’t happen while the war was still going on.
The State Department spokesperson said that Biden “has been clear that the United States is ready to negotiate a new framework to replace the New START Treaty but we need a willing partner operating in good faith.”
The spokesperson’s comments did not mention the war in Ukraine as previous US statements on arms control talks with Russia have, suggesting Washington may be softening its stance on the issue.