Russia open to security talks with U.S. if Ukraine on table: Kremlin

Russia open to security talks with U.S. if Ukraine on table: Kremlin

Politics

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends Russian-Kyrgyz talks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan October 12, 2023.

Vladimir Pirogov | Reuters

Russia is open to “comprehensive” security talks with the U.S., so long as they include the war in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

“We are open to dialogue, but to a broad, comprehensive dialogue that covers all dimensions, including the dimension related to the conflict around Ukraine, the involvement of the United States in this conflict,” Peskov said, according to a Google-translated report by Russian state news agency Tass.

His comments came in response to the possibility of holding talks with Washington on nuclear risks apart from the Ukrainian conflict. CNBC reached out to the U.S. State Department on whether the White House would be amenable to conducting negotiations on these terms.

Russia has so far been largely isolated from West-led diplomacy to resolve the conflict with Kyiv — and was most recently not invited to the Summit on Peace in Ukraine of June 15-16.

Senior Russian security official Dmitry Medvedev separately said in a Google-translated Telegram update that conversations over a new treaty on limiting nuclear firepower with the U.S. are only possible once Washington no longer supplies weapons to Ukraine and blocks its admission to NATO.

Moscow has repeatedly invoked Kyiv’s ambition to join the West-led military alliance as a threat to its own security and one of the reasons behind Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Kyiv has solicited membership but cannot accede to the coalition while an active conflict wages on its territories.

“Everything should develop according to a completely different scenario,” Medvedev wrote, envisaging a scenario in which the U.S. enters a state of “total psychosis” out of fear of Russian bomb and missile attacks.

“Let their entire elite worry! Let them tremble and shake,” he added.

During his 2008-2012 presidential tenure, Medvedev was one of the signatories of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty in 2010, alongside then-White House leader Barack Obama. The agreement, which came into force in 2011 and was extended for another five-year stretch in 2021, bound Russia and the U.S. to deploy no more than 700 intercontinental ballistic missiles and a maximum of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads.

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The agreement also provided for up to 18 yearly inspections that the two countries may conduct of each other’s strategic nuclear weapons sites, in order to check compliance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in February 2023, without fully withdrawing his country from the treaty. Russia has since dismissed U.S. proposals for dialogue on nuclear arms control while the White House continues to support Ukraine militarily.

“We do not see the slightest interest on the part of either the United States or NATO to settle the Ukrainian conflict and listen to Russia’s concerns,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference in January, according to Reuters.

Ramping up the war rhetoric, Putin this year warned NATO of the potential for nuclear conflict, if the coalition pressed ahead with a suggestion from French President Emmanuel Macron over deploying Western troops into Ukraine.

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″[The West] must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don’t they get that?” Putin said in his annual state-of-the-nation in February.

The prospect of nuclear escalation has weighed heavily on the tactical decision-making of the NATO alliance, as it considers the next steps of its support for Kyiv. Russia, which inherited the vast majority of the collapsed Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction, has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal — with a total inventory of 5,580 warheads as of March between military stockpiles and reserves, according to the Federation of American Scientists. The U.S. has a combined stock of 5,044 warheads, comparatively.

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