10 Jul 2020 11:54

Primakov Readings: Russia able to ensure its security if New START Treaty isn't extended - Lavrov

MOSCOW. July 10 (Interfax) - Russia will promote the idea of the inadmissibility of a nuclear war at the P5 summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

"We're particularly concerned by the fact that the Americans have been refusing for the past two years to reaffirm the fundamental principle, the postulate which says there will be no winners in a nuclear war, and therefore, one must not be started," Lavrov said during an online session of the Primakov Readings entitled "Russia and the Post-Covid World" organized by Interfax and the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

"We'll be promoting this idea, the inadmissibility of a nuclear war and the impossibility of being a winner, in particular, in the context of the approaching P5 summit," he said.

Importantly, "the wording should be no weaker than that of the relevant documents signed by the Soviet Union and the United States," Lavrov said.

"The weakening of that wording is a precise indication that the Americans (who give us minor comments) would like to wash out the categorical and non-alternative nature of this process," he said.

Nuclear risks have grown a lot lately, and the global security situation has been degrading, in particular, because of U.S. actions, Lavrov said.

Moscow believes that the United States has already decided to quit the New START Treaty, the foreign minister said.

"I assume that, most probably, the United States has already decided against extending this treaty," he said. "Clearly, I'm not particularly optimistic about the New START Treaty, considering the conduct of the current negotiators."

Nevertheless, Russia will guarantee the provision of national security, even if the New START Treaty is not extended, and will not try to persuade the United States not to withdraw from the deal, Sergei Lavrov said.

"We need this extension as much as the Americans do," the minister said. "We won't try to persuade them if they categorically refuse."

"We know and we are absolutely positive that we can guarantee our security for the long-term, even in the absence of this treaty," Lavrov said.

"I don't know what we'll do if the treaty expires without further extension. I think it's premature to talk about that. We're ready for any scenario," he said.

"A variety of scenarios is possible," Lavrov said.

"But I can assure you that our general focus will be placed on continuing dialogue with the United States on strategic issues and new instruments of arms control in the context of all the factors that could influence strategic stability," he said.

Strategic stability

Russia is willing to ensure the functioning of the Treaty on Open Skies, but it will make a final decision on whether to remain a signatory to it after weighing all the effects of the United States withdrawal from it, Sergei Lavrov said.

"We don't mind if it continues functioning, but we'll make a final decision as to whether to remain a signatory to it or not after weighing all the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal from it," he said.

Moscow sees clearly now that the U.S. decision to pull out of the treaty is "final and irreversible," the minister said.

Russia is ready to continue dialogue with the United States on all aspects of strategic stability and is open to multi-party talks, Lavrov said.

"We're ready for a situation when nothing will be left in the sphere of arms control as a result of the consistent line of the United States toward destroying all these agreements. But we're ready, not to, say, start from scratch, but to continue contacts with the Americans on all strategic stability issues," he said.

"I'm certain that this will be supported by all other members of the global community. We're also keeping the door open to multi-party talks, which should be based on mutual understanding, voluntary participation in these talks, and a balanced composition of participants," he said.

In late July, three Russian-U.S. working groups will hold strategic stability consultations in Vienna, he said.

"Ryabkov and Billingslea have agreed within the framework of the process they're supervising to set up three working groups. They'll hold a meeting of the working groups on space, transparency in nuclear weapons, and nuclear doctrines in the period from July 25 or July 27 until July 30 in Vienna," Lavrov said.

Sergei Ryabkov is the Russian deputy foreign minister, and Marshall Billingslea is the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control.

"Let's wait and see. We never refuse to start a conversation, and we'll try to make sure that it's result-oriented," Lavrov said.

There are no impediments to exchanging visits between Russia and the United States at the summit level, the Russian foreign minister said.

"In fact, no one has made such agreements [on summit visits], because agreement implies a specific date and a specific venue... but no one is refusing those visits, either," Lavrov said in response to a question from Interfax.

"We're quite willing to work with the Americans on all levels: the president has established a good relationship with the American leader, I periodically speak with Mike Pompeo [U.S. Secretary of State], and dialogue is also being maintained at the level of our deputies," he said.

"So, we don't see any impediments if the American side shows such an interest. We don't want our relations with America to be viewed as nothing but an attribute of the election struggle," Lavrov said.

Russia-Taliban conspiracy

Reports alleging that Moscow offered bounties to the Taliban (terrorist organization banned in Russia) in exchange for attacking U.S. servicemen are aimed at discrediting the incumbent U.S. administration and its conduct on the Russian track, Sergei Lavrov said. 

"Hype has been raised in the United States around speculations on alleged contacts between Russia and the Taliban and our alleged offer of bounties in exchange for fighting against U.S. servicemen or even a reward for each head. I can only say that this entire story is based on unprincipled speculation, and no concrete facts have been presented," Lavrov said.

"Once again, the entire story looks like it was written and created for the purpose of the domestic political struggle in the run-up to the election, and this seems to be true. Once again, they're trying to attack the incumbent administration and discredit everything it's doing, especially on the Russian track," he said.

Russia is interested in a quieter situation in Afghanistan, Lavrov said.

"We're actively working on it. As for the United States, in the context of this political process, we support the agreements promoted by the United States in their conversations with the Taliban and the dialogue with the government. We're working to ensure the implementation of these agreements through our channels," he said.

U.S.-China trade war

The trade standoff between the United States and China does not meet the interests of Russia, the Russian foreign minister said.

"I do not see how Russia could benefit from the trade war between Washington and Beijing. In this case, we will not gain any benefit either in relations with the European Union or in relations with India, which are traditionally friendly and do not depend on the current situation, and which I do not expect to undergo any change," Lavrov said at the online session of the Primakov Readings on Friday.

Russia will accept the role of broker in U.S.-China relations, if asked to do so, the minister said.

"If they ask us, if they show such interest, we won't refuse to do so," Lavrov said in response to a question whether Russia is ready to help balance relations between the United States and China.

"After all, we've established contact with both parties. The experience of our historical development allows us to say that we have certain potential," he said.

"If this region or any other is interested in our mediation, we are always ready to help, but of course, we won't push our services on anyone," Lavrov said.

Holding a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders in an expanded format without inviting China would be inadvisable, he also said.

"We are convinced that, without China, serious issues pertaining to the global economy and global finances are unlikely to be settled efficiently," Lavrov said in response to a question from Interfax.

Russian-Japanese peace treaty

Russia has invited Japan to conclude a full-fledged peace treaty, but Japan has not responded to the offer as of yet, Sergei Lavrov said.

"In the past, Russia has reaffirmed its commitment to every agreement concluded by the Soviet Union... The same applies to the 1956 Declaration, in accordance with which, we are ready and are continuing to discuss the need for the conclusion of a peace treaty with our Japanese colleagues; by the way, this shouldn't be a peace treaty the way it's concluded the morning after the last shot is fired, i.e., the termination of the state of war," he said during the online session of the Primakov Readings on Friday.

"This peace treaty should be modern, full-fledged, and reflect today's reality, rather than the situation that existed 60 years ago," Lavrov said.

Russia has no doubt that its relations with Japan should develop and that the peace treaty should be substantive and comprehensive and should cover the entire range of bilateral affairs, including the economy, security, the vision for foreign political interaction, humanitarian and cultural relations, and lots of other things, he said.

"We've offered a conceptual basis for the treaty, but our Japanese colleagues haven't responded to our concept so far," Lavrov said.

The Primakov Readings is a new joint project of Interfax and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. As part of the project, Interfax hosted a number of online meetings of experts, politicians, and public figures that addressed topical problems and international relations, as well as the global economy amid the crisis. The project is supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Gorchakov Foundation, and the Moscow World Trade Center.

The previous sessions of the Primakov Readings were held in June and July:

"U.S. can't afford to contain both Russia and China - experts,"
"TAPI's future to remain hostage of politics for long time - experts,"
"Cancellation of EU restrictions against Russia unlikely in near future - Russian diplomat,"
"Russia to remain negative factor in U.S. domestic politics - Deputy FM Ryabkov,"
"EastMed gas pipeline has neither economic nor political grounds - experts."