Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Wednesday called for Russia and the United States to repair their strained relations, hours before President-elect Joe Biden was to enter the White House.
Tensions have soared between Moscow and Washington under US President Donald Trump, fueled by fresh allegations of sweeping cyber-attacks among a litany of other disagreements on the world stage.
“The current condition of relations between Russia and the United States is of great concern,” Gorbachev said in an interview with state-run news agency TASS.
“But this also means that something has to be done about it in order to normalize relations,” the last Soviet leader said.
“We cannot fence ourselves off from each other.”
Gorbachev, 89, reiterated that it was necessary to preserve the New START Treaty, a 2010 arms reduction accord that limits Russia and the United States to 1,550 nuclear warheads and is set to expire February 5.
Negotiations with the Trump administration stalled as Washington pushed for China to join the agreement and Beijing showing no interest.
While Biden’s aides indicated that he intends to work quickly to extend the treaty, the incoming president is also expected to take a tougher stance on Russia.
Gorbachev said that after the New START accord is extended, “a more ambitious treaty” can be negotiated within several years as new types of weapons are developed.
Under Trump, the United States withdrew from two major international accords - the Iran nuclear deal and the Open Skies treaty - and pulled out from a centerpiece arms control agreement with Russia, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.