LONDON: Russia told the United States on Monday that the last remaining pillar of bilateral nuclear arms control could expire in 2026 without a replacement due to what it said were US efforts to inflict “strategic defeat” on Moscow in Ukraine.

Both Russia and the United States still have vast arsenals of nuclear weapons which are currently partially limited by the 2011 New START Treaty, which in 2021 was extended until 2026.

What comes after Feb 4, 2026, however, is unclear, though Washington has indicated it wants to reach a follow-on agreement with Russia.

Possible scenario

Asked if Moscow could envisage there being no nuclear arms control treaty after 2026, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA state new agency: “This is quite a possible scenario.”

Ryabkov, Russia’s top arms control diplomat, said the United States had in recent years ignored Russia’s interests and dismantled most of the architecture of arms control.

The two countries, which account for 90pc of the world’s nuclear warheads, called off talks on the START treaty last year

“New START may well fall victim to this,” Ryabkov told RIA. “We are ready for such a scenario.”

His remarks constitute a warning to Washington that its continued military support for Ukraine could scupper the final major post-Cold War bilateral arms control treaty with Russia.

The United States has supplied more than $27 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb 24, including over 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft rocket systems, 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missile systems and over one million 155mm artillery rounds.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023

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