Russia ‘Not Optimistic’ About Saving Nuclear Pact With U.S.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he doesn’t see much chance of success for talks with the U.S. on salvaging a key nuclear arms treaty that expires next year.

“Knowing the attitude of the current negotiators, I am not very optimistic about the future of the New START treaty,” Lavrov said at an online conference on Friday.

The U.S. and Russia are planning to have more arms-control talks as soon as this month after a first round of discussions in Vienna in June on nuclear-weapons stockpiles.

The treaty limiting the size of nuclear arsenals between Washington and Moscow is set to expire in February and a failure to extend the pact or agree to a new one could raise risks posed by atomic weapons. The Trump administration has insisted that China take part in the talks so that they can move forward, a condition that Moscow and Beijing have rejected.

Last month, U.S. envoy Marshall Billingslea called the Vienna talks “very robust and very productive” while reiterating that Chinese officials should join future rounds.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov struck a far more cautious note, saying it was “unrealistic” for the U.S. to expect China to take part in the talks and that Moscow isn’t willing “to influence Beijing” in the way that the Americans would like.

The U.S. insistence on tying progress in the talks to the participation of China shows that the Trump administration has already decided to walk away from the treaty, Lavrov said, according to state news services TASS and RIA Novosti.

The 10-year agreement, the last one capping the nuclear forces of the former Cold War foes, has an option to renew for a further five years with the agreement of both parties.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova didn’t respond to a request for comment on the timing for the next round of talks.

Russia will raise at an upcoming summit between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council the need to rule out the possibility of nuclear war, Lavrov said. The U.S. for the past two years has refused to endorse the principle that such a conflict cannot be won, which marks a step back from a Soviet-era joint statement in 1985, he said.

The U.S., backed by France and the U.K., wants to restrict the agenda of the summit to disarmament and non-proliferation, which China sees as a bid to pressure it to join the talks on nuclear stockpiles, Lavrov said.

(An earlier version of this article was corrected to show the date hasn’t yet been announced for the next round of U.S.-Russia talks.)

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