The Biden administration blames Russia for postponing meetings to discuss a major nuclear arms control deal between the two countries due to begin in Egypt on Tuesday, with a State Department spokesman saying the decision ” unilaterally” had been taken by Russia.
The New START treaty meetings — the only agreement left to regulate the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals — were to be held in the wake of Moscow’s nuclear-clatter toward Ukraine and after complications surrounding treaty-related inspections. US officials have repeatedly emphasized the need for dialogue on nuclear matters to mitigate risks.
In a statement on Monday, the State Department spokesman said that “the United States and the Russian Federation planned to convene a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) of the New START treaty in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss the implementation of the new START treaty on Tuesday. November 29.”
“The Russian side has informed the United States that Russia has unilaterally postponed the meeting and stated that it would propose new dates,” the spokesman said.
Russia has given the US no reason to delay the talks, a senior State Department official told DailyExpertNews. Moscow has notified the US of its decision “in recent days,” the official said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry told Russian state media RIA Novosti that the talks had been postponed, but gave no reason for the delay.
“The session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the Russian-US START treaty, previously scheduled in Cairo (November 29 – December 6), will not take place on the dates indicated. The event has been postponed to a later date,” the ministry said.
A date for the rescheduled talks remains unclear. The State Department spokesman said the US is “ready to reschedule as soon as possible, as resuming inspections is a priority for maintaining the treaty as an instrument of stability.”
The New START treaty sets limits on the number of deployed intercontinental nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended for five years in early 2021, meaning the two sides should soon start negotiating a new arms control deal.
The treaty allows Washington and Moscow to inspect each other’s weapons sites, but inspections have been suspended since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is very unusual and very unfortunate that at 11 a.m. the Russians postponed this meeting that they had expressed interest in,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association, told DailyExpertNews.
Kimball said the meeting is “essential to resolving the issues that have hindered the resumption of on-site inspections under New START” and “an important step toward formal negotiations between the two countries on a new nuclear arms control agreement.” .
Both the US and Russia have expressed a desire to have a nuclear arms control agreement after 2026, when New START expires. Kimball said it is in the countries’ mutual interest to keep their nuclear stockpiles on borders.
“President Biden has been very clear about his commitment to negotiating to maintain the arms control structure after START expires in 2026. And we remain committed to that goal,” Elizabeth Rood, the top US diplomat in Moscow, told RIA Novosti.
“Until that happens, we will continue to have discussions in the framework of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, the mechanism of the Treaty. And we will wait for the opportunity to resume strategic dialogue,” Rood added.
Government officials have said the willingness to discuss the arms control deal, even as Russia fights its war in Ukraine, demonstrates the US’s commitment to diplomacy and limits the risk of nuclear catastrophe.
Washington “has channels for managing risk with the Russian Federation, particularly nuclear risk,” Rood said, adding that “that was the purpose of CIA Director Burns’ meeting with his Russian counterpart.”
This story has been updated with additional details.