Russia says it wants to keep New START nuclear treaty, despite U.S. friction
(Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to preserve its last remaining nuclear treaty with the United States despite what it called a destructive U.S. approach to arms control.
The United States on Tuesday accused Russia of violating the New START treaty by refusing to allow inspections on its territory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was necessary to preserve at least some "hints" of continued dialogue with Washington, "no matter how sad the situation is at the present time".
"We consider the continuation of this treaty very important," he said, describing it as the only one that remained "at least hypothetically viable".
"Otherwise, we see that the United States has actually destroyed the legal framework" for arms control, he said.
New START came into force in 2011 and was extended in 2021 for five more years. It caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.
Together, Russia and the United States account for about 90% of the world's nuclear warheads. The future of New START has taken on added importance at a time when Russia's invasion of Ukraine has pushed the two countries closer to direct confrontation than at any time in the past 60 years.
Last week, atomic scientists assessed that the "Doomsday Clock" - a symbolic gauge of how far humanity stands from possible annihilation - was closer to midnight than ever before.
Moscow in August suspended cooperation with inspections under the treaty, blaming travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies after the invasion, but said it was still committed to complying with the provisions of the treaty.
A State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday that Russia had a "clear path" for returning to compliance by allowing inspection activities, and that Washington remained ready to work with Russia to fully implement the treaty.
"The New START Treaty remains in the national security interests of the United States," the spokesperson said.
Talks on resuming inspections were due to take place in November in Egypt, but Russia postponed them, and neither side has set a new date. Moscow accused Washington of refusing to discuss a broader agenda of "strategic stability".
On Monday, Russia told the United States that the treaty could expire in 2026 without a replacement because it said Washington was trying to inflict "strategic defeat" on Moscow in Ukraine.
(Reporting by Reuters; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)