17 Aug 2021

Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov: Clear U.S. objective is to ensure that China is part of arms control discussions

Sergei Ryabkov

Sergei Ryabkov
Photo courtesy of the Russian Foreign Ministry

Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has given an interview to Interfax following the first round of strategic security consultations between Russia and the United States in Geneva on July 28. He speaks about the continuity of the Biden administration as regards engaging China in arms control negotiations, the prospects of overcoming differences with the U.S. on space, and Washington's position on Moscow-proposed moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles.

Question: You said during the strategic stability negotiations with the U.S. in Geneva that there was zero possibility of engaging China in communications on this topic. Does the U.S. continue to insist on engaging China in arms control negotiations, or have they given up the idea?

Answer: As far as I understand the American position, the China factor, in general, is massively important and draws significant attention from the American side. I can't say that, under the current administration, we are hearing signals from Washington in favor of including the People's Republic of China in our bilateral dialogue with the U.S. on strategic stability or some hypothetical talks in the future - our, bilateral talks. There is none of this.

But it's indisputable that the Americans' clear objective is to ensure that China becomes a part of the broader process or becomes involved one way or another in arms control discussions, in particular on missiles and nuclear weapons. And from this standpoint the current administration fully adheres to the position pursued by the Trump administration on this matter. The American policy is quite consistent here. This is what they are aiming for.

Q.: Previously you said the Geneva consultations showed the potential for a convergence of positions with the U.S. despite current differences on a number of issues. Do these issues concern the weaponization of space, a topic on which Moscow and Washington are so far unable to find common ground? Was space discussed at the consultations? Are the Americans interested in cooperating on this issue?

A.: This issue was discussed. It had to be, it's one of the essential elements regarding strategic stability on the agenda. We have disagreements with the U.S. in this sphere. They primarily center on the fact that the Americans have been making certain accusations against us that we view as totally unsubstantiated.

At the same time, they refuse to work within the guidelines that we have offered them, I mean the well-known treaty that we have drafted with China, the legally binding document on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space. I won't reproduce their logic and their arguments in this case, as we have repeated all this many times. I want to note another thing: we presume that outer space in general, all of its aspects, as well as other new technologies and capabilities that the sides gain in the military sphere should become part of the security equation that we have been talking about for so long.

Without that, any potential dialogue will be incomplete. When discussing any processes of strategic stability, we can't avoid touching upon space-related issues. Another question is how it'll be organized. We had some experience during the Trump administration. Not long ago, in March, we held a closed-door videoconference with the Americans in an interdepartmental format on the issue of space security. There are differences in the methods of this approach and in determining the points on the concrete broad space agenda, but these are all working issues. I hope they can be solved.

This is how we held our discussion with the Americans [on July 28], and sought to persuade them to find the strength and willingness to take a comprehensive look at this problem rather than limiting the discussion only to the issue of so-called space junk, as it is happening now. Given the whole importance of this issue, it's just one of the components of the far broader and vaster dossier.

Q.: Was the moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missile in Europe proposed by Russia discussed in Geneva? Is Washington ready for this, if not on paper then in word, or is it still ducking the question?

A.: Regrettably, the position of the American side regarding our idea is unchanged. They are not ready to work on it in detail. As I understand, their approach to our proposal is that we are trying to sidetrack the discussion and that the problem is rooted in Russia's alleged violation of the now defunct treaty. The difference is that they are looking into the past and we are looking into the future here.

They are citing their own interpretations of the processes that took place several years ago. We have an absolutely different view on this and we are ready at any moment to prove that the Americans are wrong here. But the essence is that there is no forward movement, but we will keep on drawing the attention of the American side to the importance of this topic and in order to avoid a new missile crisis, this time in Europe; we will carry on urging them, for there is some time left until the window of opportunity closes, and it is narrowing rapidly given that the U.S. is implementing several programs of creating such ground-based intermediate-and- shorter-range systems, which are very modern, dangerous and destabilizing.

When and if such systems appear in Europe, we will find ourselves in a totally different situation to which we will react and our reaction will be resolute, convincing and will employ military and technical means. I cannot understand why they need this. We call on them to reach an agreement before it's too late.

Q.: Earlier Russia didn't rule out discussing with the U.S. its state-of-the-art arms systems, including Kinzhal and Poseidon, which are making Washington concerned. Was this topic discussed, including from the point of view of the possible conclusion of new agreements?

A.: This topic interests the Americans, and we, naturally, are not avoiding the conversation. Our position on this subject is that there is no reason to raise such an issue, namely the potential restriction of our capabilities in the sphere of cutting edge systems. We explained to the Americans long ago which of our newest systems are covered by the New START Treaty, which was extended in February. When we put such systems on combat duty, we will surely act in full compliance with the treaty. There is no doubt about that.

The other part of our set of cutting-edge systems remains outside the current arms control sphere, and if the U.S. is not ready to move towards the development of new agreements, this will remain as it is despite any wishes and preferences voiced by the American side.

We will certainly develop our potential in these spheres as we believe that such systems boost our security and strategic stability on the whole. What has happened is the direct consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] ABM treaty, and the emergence of these systems is directly linked to the fact that the U.S. decided to get rid of the restrictions that the ABM Treaty imposed. But that was their choice. We have repeatedly warned them about the consequences, we have explained our logic to them. Now we are in a new situation and there should be no doubt on any side, including the U.S., about the absolute priority, which is to ensure our security.

We will primarily be taking care of our guaranteed protection from any aggression on behalf of any potential adversary, including the U.S., and when we have rock-solid guarantees in this sphere - there are such guarantees now but they should be kept at the due level in the future - we will look at whether something else is possible or impossible in the future. This is an open question, it is very complicated, but in any case the U.S. should understand that there will be no unilateral concessions, no steps to meet them halfway or their wishes without U.S. readiness to make compromises, to take into consideration our interests and our concerns in various spheres linked to U.S. moves in the development of their own military organization, the development of new systems and their deployment in various regions. They won't succeed from the point of view of 'putting under control' our cutting-edge systems if they don't do so.