By Shannon Bugos
The author is senior policy analyst at the Arms Control Association (ACA). The following text was published in their Nuclear Disarmament Monitor newsletter of 22 June 2023.
WASHINGTON, DC, 24 June 2023 (IDN) — Russia expressed a willingness to consider the proposal by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in June to engage in a bilateral dialogue on nuclear risk reduction and arms control "without preconditions."
“Rather than waiting to resolve all of our bilateral differences,” said Sullivan in a June 2 address at the Arms Control Association’s annual forum in Washington, “the United States is ready to engage Russia now to manage nuclear risks and develop a post-2026 arms control framework.” The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control agreement, expires in 2026.
On June 5, Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, described Sullivan’s remarks as “important and positive,” noting that “we are expecting it to be supported with steps that will be made de facto through diplomatic channels.”
Nevertheless, in a June 16 address, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed ongoing resistance to talks on tactical nuclear weapons. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reiterated in a June 21 prepared address Russia’s position that unless “Washington and the West as a whole do not radically revise their aggressive anti-Russian policy…productive negotiations on arms control will hardly be possible.”
However, suggesting some room for discussion, Ryabkov noted June 8 that, once Washington sends an official diplomatic proposal to Moscow, “we will consider it.”
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged June 17 his ongoing worry that Putin might employ tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The possibility is “real,” he said.
Russia and Belarus claimed in June that the transfer of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus has begun. (See below for more information.) Moscow launched part of its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 from neighboring Belarus.
Yet, the United States and NATO both reiterated assurances in mid-June that they continue to monitor Russia’s behavior and that neither see a reason to adjust their respective nuclear postures in response.
“We don’t see any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” Blinken emphasized. In May, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified to Congress that “it is very unlikely” that Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: White House meeting on New Start Treaty November 2010. Credit: White House.