By Afshain Afzal
This week, on 23 January 2023, Russian authorities announced that no new date had been set for talks with the United States on the New START nuclear arms treaty. Talks between Moscow and Washington on resuming inspections under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty were due to take place in November in Egypt, but Russia postponed them and neither side has set a new date for a meeting. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov clarified that the conditions were not right for new talks on the treaty on capping the number of each side's strategic nuclear warheads.
Last month Russia Federation and Washington agreed for US watchdog delegation to visit Moscow and a reciprocal visit by Russian inspectors to visit Washington. If we recall, with regard to limitation of nuclear weapons, in February 2021, Russia and the USA agreed regulating their nuclear arsenals by extending the New START treaty by five years till 2026. The New START treaty limits all deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons by Russia and the US to 1,550 nuclear warheads on delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
In the latest development an avenue has been made to resume broken talk by mid-January 2023. Earlier Foreign Ministry had postponed talks of the New START Bilateral Consultative Commission, due in Cairo in December 2022 and Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova linked the meeting on arms control to US support for Ukraine. Will Poland or some other country play the role is not yet defined.
Earlier, on-site inspections of its nuclear weapons-related facilities by the each other was due in March 2020 but got delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After Russian President Vladimir Putin decided send forces to Ukraine to end civil strife in a tug of war to form the government at Kyiv, the visits by inspections were suspended indefinitely. Now since few months back channel talks were held and both countries agreed in principle to allow each other on-site inspections of their nuclear weapons-related facilities.
The US State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price has announced Washington’s willingness to hold direct dialogue with Moscow. With all the tall claims of human rights violation by Russia in Ukraine and proposal for slapping further strict sanctions, American leadership has taken this step. Earlier, US imposed sanctions on 278 members of Russia's parliament, who participated in the referendums to annex four regions of Ukraine and 14 people connected with Russian defence industries. Not only major Russian banks have been removed from the international financial messaging system Swift but also US has barred Russia from making debt payments using foreign currency held in US banks. No doubt, the delayed payments to Russia for its oil and gas exports was a great loss. The US also banned import of all Russian oil and gas.
Other countries including the United Kingdom has excluded key Russian banks from its financial system and frozen the assets of all the Russian banks, which has barred Russian firms from borrowing money and placed limits on Russian deposits at United Kingdom banks. Already, United Kingdom has stopped importing gas from Russia. The European Union announced ban on imports of Russian oil through sea from December 2022. In addition, the EU will ban all imports of refined oil products from Russia in February 2023. Germany was also forced to freeze plans for the opening of the Nordstream gas pipeline from Russia. To further damage Russian economy, the EU and G7 countries stopped importing Russian coal and capped Russian oil payments.