The West does not want to talk to Russia “as equals” and is responsible for unleashing a new nuclear arms race, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday.
According to him, Moscow is “unfazed” by the “arrogance” of western countries, and believes that everything will ultimately be set straight.
The Russian diplomat stressed that Moscow will respond to the US’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, announced by President Donald Trump on 2 February, through “military and technological means”.
According to Lavrov, this is not merely the start of a new Cold War, but rather a complete breakdown of the system for monitoring weapons, including strategic weapons, which was developed over decades, and which acquired its final form upon the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Experts in the West, Russia, and elsewhere all agree that the US’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty and its plans to create new low-capacity nuclear weapons will “significantly lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and will increase the risk of a nuclear conflict arising,” Lavrov observed.
The New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, the last remaining nuclear treaty between Russia and the US, will be the next to go, the Russian minister warned.
Lavrov said that Russia has repeatedly made suggestions in favor of strategic stability. “We even proposed a step-by-step approach towards establishing new negotiations on arms restrictions, starting with a joint Russian-American declaration on the unacceptability of nuclear war. All of our proposals have either been rejected or left without a response,” he complained.
According to him, this is why Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to stop trying to initiate any new disarmament talks with the US.
“When they mature enough to understand their responsibility for the problems created by the US’s policy, then by all means: the doors are open, please come in, and let’s talk as equals, taking into account each other’s interests, legitimate interests, and not imagined,” Lavrov commented, adding that the US’s interest is currently “not legitimate, but dictatorial, namely, that it has no opponents in this world”.
In December, the US issued the Kremlin an ultimatum, giving Russia 60 days to destroy the 9M729 missiles which Washington believes have a range prohibited by the treaty (500-5,500 km).
The US’s stance was supported by NATO countries, including Germany, after the Pentagon presented satellite images which prove that Russia tested missiles with a distance prohibited by the INF Treaty.
On 23 January, the Russian Defense Ministry organized a demonstration of the offending missiles for foreign military attachés, but it was ignored by the US and dismissed as “ridiculous” by the Department of State.
“The people who attended it did not have the opportunity to ask questions. It was simply ridiculous. Besides, showing the system in a static position is not proof that the missile’s flight range
corresponds to what is specified in the treaty,” said Andrea Thompson, the US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.
On 3 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that, as a “mirror response”, Russia would also suspend its compliance with the treaty, and gave orders to start developing ground-based hypersonic missiles and a ground-based version of the Kalibr missile.