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Statement by Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy on the theme "Strategic stability and the state of armscontrol"

Statement by Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy
on the theme "Strategic stability and the state of armscontrol",
1 October 2021


Dear colleagues,

Thank you very much for this opportunity to present views of Moscow with regard to the current situation in the area of strategic stability, arms control and related issues.

To begin with, I cannot but spend a couple of minutes to “set the scene” and briefly describe the overall background in terms of security environment and state of play in relation to it. I have to use two main colors for this picture: a dominating dark one to depict grave deterioration of strategic milieu, and a drop of a bright paint to reflect a humble ray of hope for diplomacy.

While the weight of accumulated problems and troubling instabilities in strategic sphere is immense, relations among nuclear powers are very far from being well-tempered. The situation is also heavily overshadowed by the ruins of arms control pillars, destroyed mostly by the previous US Administration in its unchecked quest for overall superiority in military and other domains. As a matter of fact the New START Treaty is practically the last one standing.

Meanwhile, there is some glimpse of hope added to the diplomatic scene lately. Due to understandings reached by the Presidents of Russia and the US a window of opportunity has been opened for constructive engagement.

First, as you are all aware, the two leaders decided to extend the New START for full five years without preconditions They also reconfirmed in a Joint Statement that nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought. Moreover, they highlighted the priority to reduce the risk of any armed conflict between our countries. These are very important and long awaited steps by two stewards of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals  - the measures that Russia has been consequently and persistently advocating for. I believe that in this context it would be very opportune to mention that Russia and China have also publicly at the highest level pronounced inadmissibility of nuclear war, as well as any armed conflict involving nuclear powers. Now, we believe it is high time for the whole P5 to jointly reiterate this formula. We see it as a conceptually significant political message both to each other and to international community as a whole.

The above mentioned steps on a bilateral US - Russia track have created a much- needed basis for further efforts. A necessary momentum was achieved and movement in the right direction has been initiated, as President Putin and President Biden at their June meeting here in Geneva instructed their respective interagency teams to embark on a new round of a strategic stability dialogue (SSD). The Presidents expect this dialogue to be integrated, deliberate and robust. Through SSD the sides will seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures. This means in practical sense that we have to address a broad spectrum of complicated and multifaceted issues on strategic agenda in a holistic way, including new and emerging challenges to the security of our countries. The task is difficult, laborious and time-consuming, but with no doubt worth the effort.

And we have just started. Two bilateral interagency meetings were held. They were mainly about identifying “default settings” and actual structure of the dialogue. As a first substantial step, we started the discussions with an exchange of our respective threat perceptions and security concerns. Next, it would be logical to outline possible ways to address these concerns on a mutually acceptable basis, including through arms control and risk reductions tools.

On a positive note, let me mention that there are some initial results in terms of defining common goals for the interaction: both delegations agree that this process should serve to stabilize bilateral relations in the strategic area, ensure predictability, prevent arms race, build up arms control, and reduce risks of armed conflicts.

With that, it is yet to be proved in reality that Washington is ready to change its destabilizing course and pursue the above mentioned ambitious goals through interaction on an equal basis. It remains to be seen whether the US is actually ready to take into account our legitimate security interests and concerns. Clearly, for many in Washington it might be difficult to abandon the strife for decisive unilateral advantages at the expense of Russia’s security, as well as efforts to create a wide range of tools to put politico-military pressure on geopolitical opponents.

We are prepared for the worse, but surely hope for the better. We still tend to believe that there is a chance for pragmatic approach to prevail and for the US to engage with Russia in good faith with a view to seek balanced and mutually acceptable solutions. So far, we note the professional and business-like atmosphere at the SSD meetings.

On our part, we have presented our vision on how to frame the SSD and what is desirable to achieve as a result thereof. We have publicly explained our concept on different occasions, so this time I will not dive into details. The underlying idea is to jointly develop a “new security equation” that would cover key factors of strategic stability. We want to embrace the entire spectrum of both nuclear and non-nuclear offensive and defensive arms with strategic capability.

As for the offensive arms, we need to pay particular attention to nuclear and high-precision conventional systems that could be used in a counterforce strike against the territory of the other side with a view to dramatically weaken or even neutralize its deterrent. We should focus on delivery vehicles and associated platforms. As for warheads, we prefer to emphasize the deployed part of the arsenals that pose direct operational threat.

Now a few words on the strategic defensive systems - and here I obviously refer to respective missile defence assets. Russia is strongly committed to the principle of inseparable interrelationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms. This link remains to be the crux of the very concept of strategic stability. Let us recall that it is enshrined in the New START. This is why there is no way to avoid addressing the issue of missile defence in the framework of the “new security equation”.

Another indispensable topic is “post-INF dynamics” and possible efforts to mitigate the damage inflicted upon the international security by the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. We continue to stick to promote our well-known initiatives that are designed to ensure restraint and predictability in this field.

It is also important to develop common approaches to preventing an arms race in outer space and ensuring security of space activities.

As for the concepts and ideas on the American side, they seem to be somewhat immature at this stage due to the ongoing review process initiated by the new Administration with regard to doctrines, postures and strategies. We take it as it is and believe that in the meantime there is still enough space for intensive discussions. And indeed they take place.

It is of no surprise that the dialogue proves that the two sides have many discords, disagreements, and contrary views on things, and only a few points of convergence. But it is normal at this stage - it’s just the beginning of the joumey. If  political will and readiness for creative diplomacy prevail on both sides, then there are no unbridgeable gaps.

In conclusion, let me assure you that Russia is open to engage constructively and in the spirit of good will in any setting that provides pragmatic and realistic opportunities to strengthen strategic stability and international security through politico—diplomatic means, including through arms control solutions and cooperative risk reduction measures. But the essential prerequisite remains the same: we expect our security interests and concerns to be respected and duly taken into account.

Thank you.


Here is the link to the video statement: