Russia says it won’t discuss nuclear arms control with US while it backs Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds an annual press conference in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2024. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/ File Photo © Thomson Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday it was impossible to discuss nuclear arms control with the United States without taking into account the situation in Ukraine, accusing Washington of seeking military dominance.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference that Washington had proposed separating the two issues and resuming “strategic stability” talks between the two countries, which hold by far the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals.

But Lavrov said the proposal was unacceptable to Russia because of the West’s backing for Ukraine in the war now approaching the end of its second year.

The absence of dialogue is significant because the New START accord that limits both sides’ strategic nuclear warheads is due to expire in February 2026. Its lapse would leave the two countries with no remaining nuclear arms agreement at a time when tensions between them are at the highest point since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

“We do not see the slightest interest on the part of either the United States or NATO to settle the Ukrainian conflict and listen to Russia’s concerns,” Lavrov said.

He accused the West of pushing Ukraine to use increasingly long-range weapons for strikes deep inside Russia. Such strikes have intensified in recent weeks, including an attack on the southern city of Belgorod that killed 25 people on Dec. 30.

Lavrov did not provide any evidence for his assertion that the West was encouraging Ukraine to carry out such strikes but accused the United States of seeking military superiority over Russia.

There were no grounds to discuss arms control while the West was conducting what he described as “hybrid war” against Moscow, he said.

“We do not reject this idea for the future, but we precondition this possibility on the abandonment by the West of its policy of undermining and not respecting Russia’s interests,” said Lavrov.

Source: Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Osborn