- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2019

Discussions between U.S. and Russian diplomats negotiating a crumbling bilateral weapons agreement remain at a standstill, a senior Moscow official said Friday.

Russian state media reported that Georgy Borisenko, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s North American division, blamed the U.S. for an impasse in talks involving the crumbling Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as both countries remain on course to formally abandon the Cold War-era weapons pact.

“There are no plans [to resume the dialogue] so far. We invite our counterparts to resume the strategic stability dialogue between Russia and the U.S. all the time. We are ready [to do that] at any moment. Unfortunately, Washington is shying away from that,” said Mr. Borisenko, TASS reported.

Mr. Borisenko was specifically referring to recent strategic stability consultations between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Andrea Thompson, the Trump administration’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, the report said.

Signed in 1987, the INF prohibits the U.S. and Russia from developing and deploying certain land-based missiles. President Trump accused Russia last year of violating the agreement by creating a new missile system, the 9M729, and Ms. Thompson raised related concerns during subsequent but unsuccessful attempted negotiations held with Mr. Ryabkov in which she demanded its destruction.



In February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. would begin the six-month process of withdrawing from the INF as a result of Moscow’s continued noncompliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order the following month abandoning the pact until the U.S. “ends its violations of the treaty or until it terminates.”

Reached for comment, a State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. remains open to withdrawing from the INF if Moscow reverses course by destroying the 9M729’s missiles, launchers and associated equipment before the six-month window comes to a close August 2.

“As we have said many times, the United States remains committed to effective arms control that advances U.S., allied, and partners security; is verifiable and enforceable; and includes partners that comply responsibly with their obligations,” a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Times later Friday. “We stand ready to engage with Russia on arms control negotiations that meet these criteria.

“The onus to preserve the INF Treaty is entirely on Russia,” said the spokesperson.

The INF bans land-based missiles capable of reaching a distance of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. It was reached by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union, and widely credited with paving the way to the Cold War’s conclusion early the next decade.

Mr. Gorbachev, 88, previously said that abandoning the INF Treaty would pose a “dire threat to peace” and initiate “a new arms race.”

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