Russia Seeks Assurances on Arms Control From Trump-Putin Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Russia is looking for a U.S. commitment to prevent the collapse of arms control agreements at a meeting this weekend between President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, a senior Russian diplomat said.

“What’s next America?” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview in Buenos Aires on Thursday when asked about the message that Putin will have for Trump. “Do you think you would be better served if the whole arms control international system collapses?”

Trump has said the U.S. plans to withdraw from the INF, a landmark 1987 treaty banning the deployment of intermediate-range missiles on land, over complaints of Russian violations. This has sparked concerns about a build-up of nuclear forces in Europe. Another major nuclear weapons reduction treaty, New START, expires in early 2021 and so far the U.S. has turned a deaf ear to Russian calls to prolong it for another five years.

The tensions over arms control add to a litany of disputes that are bedeviling relations between the former Cold War rivals, including accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, Syria and Ukraine.

While Trump, who’s due to meet Putin for their second time this year on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, has promised better ties, the opposite has happened because of the anti-Russia bias within his administration, said Ryabkov. “Our relationship is simply a mess,” he said. “The political will of the president himself is not sufficient to change course.”

Russia is willing to pursue dialogue with the U.S. on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty and is very keen to extend or replace New START, Ryabkov said.

“We want a better relationship and we are prepared to do so, but we cannot do it alone,” he said. “Being in Argentina, it will be very natural to say that we need two to tango.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.