Trump Calls for Nuclear Abolition: Russia Seconds the Motion

April 29th, 2019 - by Tom O'Connor / The Nation

Trump Says: “We all have to get rid of Nuclear Weapons. Russia Responds: “Let’s make a plan.”

 (April 2, 2019) — A senior Russian diplomat responded positively to President Donald Trump’s remarks regarding his desire to seek total denuclearization, saying Moscow was ready to begin working toward that end.

Speaking to Fox News host Sean Hannity via telephone Thursday night, Trump welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to assist in the U.S.-North Korea peace process.

The president said, “We want to get rid of the nuclear weapons,” not just in North Korea, but “we all have to get—Russia has to get rid of them and China has to get rid of them” in comments subsequently supported by Moscow, which had accused Washington of loosening restrictions on its nuclear posture.

“Given the increasing role of nuclear weapons in U.S. doctrine-related documents and their gradual transition to a class of weapons that can be used on the battlefield, such statements can be only welcomed,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday, according to state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Ryabkov then laid out a potential road map toward total disarmament at a time when the two countries appeared more distant than any time in recent history.

“Russia has explained its stance more than once: further steps toward nuclear disarmament will require creating a number of prerequisites and taking into account many factors that have a direct impact on strategic stability—from the emergence of a missile defense system and the possibility of weapons deployment in space to fundamental changes in the sphere of conventional weapons, the emergence of cyber weapons and many other factors,” Ryabkov said.

“This is a most intricate subject,” he added. “It has not yet been discussed in practical terms at any of the negotiating platforms.”

Shortly after Trump entered office in early 2017, both he and Putin appeared eager to expand their nuclear arsenals and, though their stockpiles remained restricted by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), they have sought to modernize their air, sea and land nuclear triads as non-proliferation agreements collapsed. A year later, the Trump administration’s push to develop low-yield nuclear weapons that were often said more likely to be used in combat raised concerns in Russia.

As members of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty prepared for next year’s review, Ryabkov called the direction Trump was taking U.S. nuclear policy “very dangerous” as he “has considerably expanded the number of options permitting the use of nuclear weapons, including for a preventive strike.” He further claimed that “Washington is deliberately lowering the threshold of nuclear weapons, thus intentionally increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict that would entail catastrophic effects,” including for U.S. allies in Europe.

Echoing Russia’s previous pushes for a promise that would preclude the use of nuclear weapons, Ryabkov said he sought “to convince our American colleagues that, taking into account what is happening, it would be very timely to agree on a joint statement on the inadmissibility of a nuclear conflict.”

The stakes involving weapons of mass destruction have grown particularly high since the White House abandoned the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in February.

Washington accused Moscow of violating the deal with its development of the Novator 9M729 cruise missile reputedly falling within the restricted 310 to 3,420-mile range for land-based systems, while Russia accused the U.S. of deploying defensive systems capable of launching attacks in Eastern Europe.

Upon leaving the deal, Trump appeared to leave room for further talks. He said during his State of the Union address that “perhaps, we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we cannot, in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.”

Citing multiple White House officials, CNN reported Friday that the Trump administration was considering a new nuclear deal with Moscow and Beijing.

Ryabkov responded by saying he was “very attentively studying the signals from the American side, including the signal that was broadcast by CNN referencing anonymous representatives of the U.S. administration.”

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