- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2019

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, arms control will be the top item in a discussion that will include Russian activity in Venezuela and Syria, as well as Moscow’s role in North Korea diplomacy.

A State Department official, who briefed reporters on background Friday, said potential future arms control agreements with Russia will need to “account for a broader range of weapons systems than our current bilateral treaties with Russia.”

President Trump announced in February that he has begun preparations to withdraw the United States out of a key Cold War-era weapons pact with Russia, saying Moscow has been cheating for years on the 1987 agreement.

Since 2014, U.S. officials since have accused Moscow of breaching the pact known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, specifically through the deployment of a cruise missile system known as the Novator 9M729. Officials say there is also unease over the fact that China, which has engaged in its own missile development in recent years, is not beholden to the treaty.

With an August deadline approaching for Washington to formally withdraw from the INF, next week’s bilateral talks between U.S. and Russian officials are seen to be key toward generating diplomatic dialogue on the matter.

But U.S. officials say it won’t be the only thing on Mr. Pompeo’s agenda. The secretary of state is also preparing to discuss the “full range of global challenges” with Mr. Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the senior State Department official said.

A department press release said Mr. Pompeo will travel to Moscow and Sochi, Russia, from Sunday through Tuesday.

The senior official said that “it is no secret that we have many areas of disagreement with the Russian government, and the secretary will have a very candid conversation about concerns in our bilateral relationship.”

In his first trip to Russia as secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo will make his first stop in Moscow to meet with U.S. Embassy staff, and then will fly to Sochi to sit down with Mr. Putin and Mr. Lavrov.

The official added that while the trip may be short, spanning just three days, it will be an “important visit.”

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