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Panel: Conversations on Missiles and Nuclear Weapons Key to Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Relationship

While the Washington and Moscow relationship is, “more tense, more difficult, more hostile” than it has ever been, an American think tank working with Russian counterparts believe it is possible to rebuild trust between the two by re-opening talks on issues large and small.

One key sticking point and possible flashpoint is how the two nations view the deployment of medium-range land-based cruise missiles inside Russia and the positioning of Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system in Eastern European NATO countries.

Speaking Thursday at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sergey Rogov, scientific director of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the Kremlin and Washington view each other’s moves as violations of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty.

“If INF collapses” in the dispute, “most likely START [the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] will too. That will be extremely dangerous” with the possibility of miscalculation in a crisis by either side. Even in a world with a number of nations possessing nuclear weapons, there would be no treaty between the holders of 90 percent of those strategic weapons that control their placement or size of their stockpiles, he said.

Igor Ivanov, a former Russian foreign minister and now president of the Russia International Affairs Council, said the relationship “almost brings to life old ghosts of the Cold War” where there were no agreements. Instead there was a philosophy of Mutually Assured Destruction as warding off nuclear catastrophe.

“U.S.-Russian dialogue on nuclear weapons has to be resumed” or it sends a signal to other nations that Moscow and Washington are not concerned about their placement, numbers or possible proliferation to other countries.

“We cannot postpone solutions” on large issues such as Ukraine, nuclear weapons, weaponization of cyber and space and smaller issues like cooperation in the Arctic, business and economic ties even in the face of sanctions, or cultural and scientific exchanges.
“There is no alternative to cooperation,” Ivanov said.

Details on how to approach these issues will be in the soon to be released “Roadmap for U.S.-Russia Relations.” The project of finding ways to rebuild trust began in 2015.

Oleg Stepanov, director of the planning department in Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs, said. “More friendship [between leaders] brought us to a cautionary tale” that there were not enough ties to sustain a relationship. “The building was too flimsy to survive.”
The “great mistake” of the last few years “has been continued sniping at each other,” rather than expanding dialogue and listening to each other. This listening also applied to situations where there will likely be no agreement.

“Emotions fly high, and sometimes rationality is out of the picture” when it comes to tough issues such as suspected treaty violations, Crimea and Ukraine, Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, said.

Rogov added the danger is “policymakers believe their own propaganda” about the other side, treating them as enemies and letting emotions distort judgment.

Kortunov added in future discussions both sides should realize “unilateral concessions do not work” and not to expect them.

Taking small steps in Arctic cooperation and re-opening dialogue on issues where the two nations have worked together counterterrorism, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States would help restore trust and reduce the chance of misjudging one or the other’s intent in a crisis, Kathleen Hicks, director of CSIS’s international security program, said.
Olga Oliker, director of CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia program, said about Europe “this is at the heart of the challenges” facing Washington and the Kremlin.

The world today is very changed from the Cold War and no longer dominated by two nuclear superpowers. Major strategic targets now “could be attacked and destroyed by non-nuclear weapons,” another major reason to resume talks on a host of issues, Rogov said.

  • Frank Blangeard

    As long as the United States, through NATO, is encircling and threatening Russia the Russians have absolutely no reason to trust that the United States has any intention other than ‘full spectrum superiority in land, sea, air, space and cyberspace’. Any agreement that the United States would enter into would only serve to advance towards that goal. Included in that goal is the capability to launch a preemptive attack on Russia which would decapitate the leadership and destroy any ability to retaliate. Of course the United States does not have the goal of launching such a preemptive attack (although all options are always on the table). The capability to launch the attack is simply to use the threat to dominate Russia.

    • danram

      Oh please! Just stop it, OK? This is complete crap. Nobody is “threatening the Russians”.

      The fact is that far from the west aggressively seeking to expand NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the alliance expanded because the former Warsaw Pact nations like Poland, Latvia, and Romania came running to NATO, begging to be admitted. After living under Russian domination for 45 years, they wanted to make sure that it could never happen again.

      The root of the whole problem is that the people running Russia, with an economy about the size of Portugal’s, still think that they are a superpower and that they therefore have the right to push around their immediate neighbors who are in their “sphere of influence.”

      Well, they AREN’T and the DON’T!!!!

      • Dennis

        Romania, Slovakia and Poland ARE in NATO. We worked together to stay the Serbs when they decided to ‘get even’ for WWII by killing the Croats and Bosnians who served in the Balkans theater. The cold war is past. Let’s leave it there and move on.

  • danram

    The key to “rebuilding the US-Russia relationship” is for the Russians to accept that they are not a superpower any more, realize that they don’t have some God-given right to bully their immediate neighbors, and start acting like a responsible nation-state.

  • The Plague

    “There is no alternative to cooperation, Ivanov said” – Sure there is. It’s called conflict. High time to stop this decades-long tango that’s going nowhere, giving recognition to every imbecile in the world as though they were something, when all the “power” they’ve ever had was what they stole from the West. Let there be war, in the old-fashioned way, unrestrained, not like Vietnam or Korea where ensuring the enemy’s survival was the overriding concern. Oh, and no “nation-building” afterwards – pulverize the opponent for good.

  • Dennis

    “More hostile than it has ever been”? Grady is throwing out ‘FAKE’ news just to sensationalize it and get you to read his nonsense. The Cuban missile crisis almost brought the two nations to the brink of WWIII and Grady seems not to know that? With Trump in office, we are coming to realize that we have more in common than we thought. I worked with the Russians, not the Soviets, in Bosnia and they have the same goals: to get rid of these nut-job terrorists. When the idiots playing with nukes realize that if they attack one of us, the other will make their punk country a parking lot, they’ll go back under their beds and wet themselves. They won’t ever use the nukes. They’ll only go back to what they know best: shooting up markets, restaurants, and other places where they can hurt women and children, because they have never read the Koran which strictly forbids these acts.