- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Russian officials have agreed to a meeting proposed by President Trump’s senior arms control adviser to be held ahead of a deadline for Moscow to comply with a Cold War-era weapons agreement on the verge of collapsing, a top diplomat said Tuesday.

Sergey Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said he plans to discuss the crumbling Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with U.S. counterparts on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting in Beijing this week, Russian state media reported.

“A meeting will take place, but concrete time has not been coordinated as of today,” Mr. Ryabkov told TASS, a government-owned news agency, the outlet reported.

Mr. Trump threatened last year to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the INF, a landmark arms control agreement reached with the former Soviet Union in 1987, and he is expected to follow through unless Russia meets U.S. expectations by February 2.

Signed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan for Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union, the INF bans land-based missiles capable of reaching distances of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The Trump administration alleges that Russa violated the INF by developing a new missile system, the 9M729, and has demanded its destruction by next month’s deadline, though Moscow has refused and instead offered to make it available to U.S. weapons inspectors for auditing.

Andrea Thompson, the Trump administration’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, said earlier this month that she offered to discuss the agreement when representatives from the U.S. and Russia meet in China this week. She said she was “not particularly optimistic” Moscow would decide to comply the treaty, however, and that the U.S. will “suspend our obligations” under the agreement unless Russia acts as requested.

“The situation is very alarming, there are no signs of readiness to deal with the substantive aspect of this problem, namely to discuss, among other things, proposals for mutual transparency — there are no signs of readiness for this, which, of course, is alarming, given that the deadline for the ultimatum issued by the American side expires on February 2,” Mr. Ryabkov told TASS, the outlet reported.

“We will anyway state everything we consider necessary in the light of the developments,” he continued, adding that Ms. Thompson’ recent remarks on the discussions inspired “absolutely no optimism.”

The State Department did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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