Moscow says it had ‘no choice’ but to cancel ‘New START’ nuclear talks with US

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Moscow said on Tuesday it had been left with “no other choice” but to cancel talks with the United States about the “New START” nuclear weapons control treaty, Russian state-run news agencies reported.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Washington had only wanted to discuss resuming inspections while Moscow had other priorities.

The situation in Ukraine also played a part in Russia’s last-minute decision to scrap the meeting of the bilateral commission, which had been due to begin in Cairo on Tuesday.

“By and large, the situation was such that we had no other choice. The decision was made at the political level,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying.

“The Americans focused exclusively on the topic of resuming inspections... meanwhile the solution of other issues has been and remains a priority for us,” TASS quoted Ryabkov as saying.

“We have repeatedly explained our position... but we did not see the slightest desire on the American side to move in this direction.”

Ryabkov said Moscow wanted to discuss the broader issue of “strategic stability” - an area that covers a host of nuclear-related issues between the two countries.

The treaty came into force in 2011 and caps the number of nuclear warheads that both countries can deploy. They had been due to hold a week of talks on resuming inspections under the treaty, which were suspended in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIA quoted Ryabkov as saying Moscow was not setting preconditions for a new meeting of the commission, but would like to see a “balanced program.” He said it was unlikely any meeting would take place this year.

The United States and the West have accused Russia of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” during the war in Ukraine, with President Vladimir Putin having hinted on several occasions that Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons.

CIA Director William Burns met Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russian foreign intelligence, in Ankara, Turkey, two weeks ago and warned him about the consequences of any Russian use of nuclear weapons, the White House said.

Russia has said the issues discussed were sensitive and declined to comment on them.

Moscow denies having threatened a nuclear attack over Ukraine and says the West is responsible for upping the nuclear rhetoric surrounding the conflict.

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