Russia has called for the US to halt the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of NATO’s European members, arguing it both violates the terms of existing treaties and makes a devastating conflict more likely to happen.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told a meeting sponsored by energy companies Chevron and Transneft on Monday that Moscow “hopes that the United States will stop ‘sharing’ nuclear weapons with its allies, and stop deploying nuclear weapons in countries that do not possess such weapons… Obviously, this leads to destabilization, in addition, new risks appear,” he added, “and this is a violation of Articles 1 and 2 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
He went on to say that Russia is concerned about new moves by the US to deploy so-called ‘low-yield’ warheads. While these are less powerful in absolute terms, international organizations have warned they could be used to justify their use in less extreme circumstances. Ryabkov claimed that “this lowers the threshold. And we are seeing the return of the concept of limited nuclear war. US military doctrine revealed itself 50 years ago, when it believed that it could be acceptable to use nuclear weapons as part of a conventional war.”
However, he was optimistic about the potential to bring the world back from the brink, and emphasized that “a nuclear war cannot be won… Russia is ready to co-operate in reversing this state of affairs.”
In 2019, the Americans formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which had banned a number of weapons with the potential to strike other nations from afar. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that Russia had violated the terms of the deal, which Moscow strongly denies. At the time, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US should return to developing these missiles “not just for [Europe] but for the theater we’re deploying to as well, because of… how important an intermediate-range weapon would be to the [US Pacific Command].”
The presumptive winner of the disputed US election, former Vice President Joe Biden has been critical of the White House’s decisions to withdraw from arms control pacts. Biden has been widely seen as a supporter of nuclear de-escalation, saying during his first Senate campaign that “endless warfare, reliance on false obligations of global power, [and] overt and covert manipulation of foreign regimes” were not American values.
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