US and Russia expand strategic dialogue

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January / February 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball and Shannon Bugos

Senior US and Russian officials agreed to meet in Geneva on January 10 to discuss a long list of security concerns, including a wide range of Russian proposals which Moscow says are designed to provide “security guarantees. “. In recent weeks, tensions have erupted when Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up Russian military activity near Ukraine, which Russia invaded in 2014, and complained about NATO’s military support for the Ukraine and Georgia.

On December 15, Karen Donfried, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who forwarded two draft agreements outlining the political and military security guarantees that Moscow awaits from the United States and NATO. They include demands that NATO renounce any eastward expansion into former Soviet bloc states, including Ukraine, and limit troop and weapon deployments and military exercises on the flank. is from NATO.

Two days later, Russia released its proposals, one between Russia and the United States and another between Russia and NATO. “We hope that the United States will enter into serious talks with Russia in the near future on this issue, which is of crucial importance for the maintenance of peace and stability, using the draft Russian treaty and agreement as a starting point, “the Russian Foreign Ministry said. in a report.

The White House was quick to announce that it would commit to the proposals, but insisted that its European partners would also be involved. The Russian-American strategic stability dialogue in Geneva is expected to be followed on January 12 by talks in Brussels within the NATO-Russia Council, which has not met for more than two years.

“We will listen to Russia explain its proposals and the underlying concerns that motivate them. We will respond and share our own concerns, and we have many, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said Jan. 4 at the Geneva meeting.

He stressed that the talks are narrowly focused on issues of strategic stability and described the US objective as being able to “identify a few issues on which there might be enough common ground to continue discussions and ultimately them. treat together ”.

Price also stressed that the talks would be strictly bilateral issues and that “we are not going to speak above the heads of our European allies and partners.”

President Joe Biden spoke to Putin on security matters on December 30, the second such conversation this month. According to a statement released by the White House, Biden “… urged Russia to defuse tensions with Ukraine. He said the United States and its allies and partners would react decisively if Russia further invaded Ukraine. President Biden has also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year [and] reiterated that substantial progress in these dialogues can only occur in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation. “

The January meetings were scheduled as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine continues and concerns persist over Russia’s military activities along its shared border with Ukraine. Last month, US officials said Russia had amassed around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border that could be used against Ukraine. On December 25, Reuters reported that more than 10,000 Russian troops were leaving areas near Ukraine, including Crimea, Rostov and Kuban, and returning to permanent bases in Russia.

The Russian-American talks will take place as part of the Strategic Stability Dialogue launched after the June summit between Biden and Putin to discuss nuclear weapons issues. The previous two rounds, in July and September, were led by Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

The dialogue was originally designed to explore future arms control options. After the September dialogue, Moscow and Washington agreed to create two working groups, one on “principles and objectives of future arms control” and the other on “capacities and actions with strategic effects”.

It is not yet clear how the expanded dialogue will affect progress towards negotiations on new nuclear weapons control agreements. Both parties have expressed interest in a new deal or agreements to replace the new strategic arms reduction treaty (new START treaty), which expires in February 2026. The treaty caps Russian and US strategic nuclear arsenals at 1 550 warheads deployed and 700 delivery vehicles deployed and heavy bombers each. The Bilateral Advisory Commission, the treaty implementation body, last met October 5-14 in Geneva.

A Russian security proposal calls on the United States not to deploy beyond its borders missiles formerly banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Under this treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union banned all nuclear and conventional ballistic and cruise missiles launched on the ground with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, leading to the elimination of a total 2,692 missiles.

After Washington withdrew from the deal in 2019, Putin proposed that the two countries impose a moratorium on the deployment of missiles within range of the INF Treaty and later added mutual verification measures to the proposal. Russia has also indicated that its 9M729 cruise missile, which the United States claims is in violation of the INF Treaty, would be covered by its proposal.

At the time, the Trump administration and NATO rejected the Russian proposal. The Biden administration did not say whether it would consider the Russian concept or offer a counter-proposal.

The Russian-American draft agreement proposes that the two countries “undertake not to deploy land missiles at intermediate and short range outside their national territory, as well as in areas of their national territory, from which such weapons can attack. targets on the national territory of the other party.

The Russian-NATO draft agreement also includes a moratorium, proposing that “the parties do not deploy medium and short range land missiles in areas allowing them to reach the territory of other parties”.

In addition, Moscow proposed that Russia and the United States “refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territory” and “not train military and civilian personnel of non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons. “.

This refers to the nuclear sharing agreement between the United States and NATO, under which Washington is expected to deploy more than 100 B61 gravity bombs across Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands. and Turkey, with everything but the Turkish Air Force assigned and trained to carry out nuclear strike missions with US weapons.

Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, introduced key concepts of the U.S. arms control efforts in a September 6 speech. “First, we will seek to capture new types of nuclear delivery systems with intercontinental reach. Second, we will seek to treat all nuclear warheads, including those that have not been limited previously, as so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons. Third, we will seek to maintain the limits of Russian intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons after the expiration of the new START in 2026 ”, he added. she declared.

It is still unclear how the two sides might overcome their nuclear differences and when they might move from dialogue to more formal negotiations over a successor to the new START. Biden said in June that “we’ll know in the next six months to a year whether or not we really have a strategic dialogue that matters.”

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