For Immediate Release: Nov. 29, 2022
Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)
(Washington, DC) – Russia elected not to show up for a meeting with the United States regarding ongoing implementation concerns with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a day before representatives of the two countries had planned to convene in Cairo, Egypt.
Moscow informed Washington Nov. 28 of its decision to “unilaterally postpone” the meeting of New START’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which handles treaty implementation and verification concerns.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attributed the decision to both technical and political reasons, including the war in Ukraine. Arms control is not “immune” to other events taking place in the world, he commented Nov. 29. Ryabkov emphasized to reporters that “this is not a cancellation, but a postponement.”
The U.S. State Department responded by reiterating the Biden administration’s commitment to rescheduling the meeting as soon as possible.
“Russia’s choice to postpone the BCC meeting with the United States is irresponsible, especially at this time of heightened tensions when dialogue between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is paramount,” says Laura Kennedy, a board member of the Arms Control Association and a former U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament.
“The Biden administration has taken the correct stance of communicating its willingness to reschedule the meeting at the earliest possible date, underscoring the U.S. commitment to effective arms control and maintaining strategic stability,” Kennedy added. “We hope and expect that Russia will reciprocate.”
One of the main topics on the table would have been the nearly three-year pause in the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear weapon-related facilities, a hallmark of the New START verification regime. The two countries agreed to pause the inspections in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 8, 2022, Russia further delayed any resumption of inspections by blocking treaty visits to its facilities, until such time as there is a resolution for allowing Russia’s New START inspection teams to travel to the United States despite Western sanctions and restrictions on Russia due to the war in Ukraine.
“New START stands as the last treaty limiting the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and provides unparalleled insight into Russian nuclear forces that the U.S. military greatly values for posture and planning purposes,” says Shannon Bugos, a senior research analyst at the Arms Control Association. “Further delays of the BCC meeting are deeply regrettable, particularly as resuming inspections will likely help pave the way for dialogue on future arms control following New START’s expiration in 2026.”
The United States and Russia last held a BCC meeting in October 2021, the first since the coronavirus pandemic prompted a pause in the meetings. The meeting this month was slated to take place Nov. 29 through Dec. 6 in Cairo, Egypt, and would have marked the first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Under New START, the two countries are obligated to hold two BCC meetings each year.
“Even during the worst periods of the Cold War, the United States and Russia recognized the value of maintaining common sense limits on the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Bugos added. “Today, more than ever, they must meet their shared responsibility to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals and avoid miscalculations that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.”