Long but interesting interview with Ryabkov about START and other bilateral issues:
Sergey Ryabkov: Russia should switch to a policy of deterrence and selective dialogue in its relations with the United States
Moscow. December 23. INTERFAX- President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. On a fundamentally new Russian approach to relations with Washington, options for extending the start Treaty, and prospects for a full-fledged restart of the Iranian nuclear deal with the participation of Russian Deputy foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax in an interview.
- The change of the us administration is once again taking place against an unfavorable background for Russian-American relations. Under the curtain, the next restrictions were introduced. At the same time, the future US administration is already threatening us with cyber attacks, accusing Russia of certain cyber attacks on vital us Federal agencies. Some experts and analysts have expressed concerns that we are on the verge of a cyber war at all. How do you perceive the current situation after accusations that Russia has committed hacker attacks on American agencies? Is there really a threat that we are on the verge of cyber war and can this be avoided? Are we sending any signals to the new administration about the need to start a substantive conversation in order to work out the rules of the game that would help avoid such events in our relations?
- First, I would like to say that the announced decision of the us Department of Commerce on a large group of Russian companies and organizations is a tightening of the us export control legislation, or rather, its application to Russian economic operators. In fact or in real life, this does not change much for us, given that the nomenclature referred to in the American decision is already inaccessible to normal commercial and industrial activities in terms of procurement, cooperation, and so on. In addition, the vast majority of our organizations and structures listed in this decision by the us authorities have long been under sanctions, that is, the presumption of refusal to supply these our enterprises and structures has been introduced for a long time.
Of course, we have heard the political signal. This is an attempt by the outgoing administration to slam the door louder and serve the internal need of those who are interested in further non-stop escalation of relations with Russia, to let them know that Washington, under the control of the current administration, does not intend to slow down in its anti-Russian campaign. But all this is largely rhetoric, politics, geopolitics, the material side is much less significant than this whole rhetorical superstructure, in my opinion. This is how we will treat it, although the legacy of the next us President remains heavy and it will take a long time to deal with it. Moreover, I am not sure that those who will probably be responsible for the Russian direction after January 20 are ready to seriously engage in strengthening a healthy Foundation. I am not talking about normalization of relations, but about a healthy basis in the form of dialogue channels, in the form of at least attempts to find a common denominator in certain situations.
We go from bad to worse. This was very typical for the last four years, and so far there is no feeling that this trend has outlived its usefulness and is being replaced by something else, more distinct and less one-dimensional in content. This is one time.
And the second aspect that I would like to mention concerns, of course, our interest in gradually improving relations. Although we are also realistic, it will be very difficult to get out of the storm of problems that relations have found themselves in as a result of the reckless actions of the American side for many years. If Washington shows readiness at any stage of the further development of their own thought processes in relation to Russia to try to clear the way at least in some segments, it will not be up to us. We are ready for this. But we won't ask them to do it either. We don't need relations with the United States any more than Washington needs relations with Russia. They should clearly understand this. There is no point in finding a solution on our part.
We simply suggest that we move forward together. If we do not find a response, then everything will remain as it is, with the risk of further deterioration. This is quite an alarming and potentially dangerous moment, because the irresponsibility of the political-forming circles in the United States is striking, they ignore simple logic, the obvious facts that it is impossible to achieve the desired result from us, and continue to bend their line. And the question is when this line of theirs, which they continue to bend, when it will crack and when it will break in half, and what will happen as a result.
We will not make any unilateral concessions, this is completely out of the question. In the end, it is up to the Americans to decide what, when and how to deal with our bilateral relations. We are not initiating any contacts with the Biden transition team, we are not going to do that. When they are interested, please tell them that all the addresses are known, that the foreign Ministry has not moved anywhere, and that the people who work in Washington are well aware of what to do and how to do it if such impulses follow, so you are welcome. If there is no such mood, then everything will continue as it is now.
- It turns out that there is a vacuum in our contacts, in our relations with the United States? Do you even have these contacts?
- Only through embassies - the Russian Embassy in Washington and the US Embassy in Moscow. Plus, a presidential greeting was sent to President-elect Biden.
- Threats to respond not only with sanctions to alleged Russian cyber attacks, but also with cyber strikes, do we somehow worry? Is there a risk of cyberwarfare? In Washington, they claim "something more than sanctions" from the Biden administration.
- Every day we register malicious activity from servers located outside the Russian Federation, and American sources of various types of attacks are usually in the foreground. We don't advertise it all, we don't present it as some kind of sensation. Now the Americans have found a new reason to engage in attacks on Russia, these reasons were there before, they will continue to appear, for sure, in the form of not only unsupported accusations, but simply not even clearly formulated by anyone in charge of accusations against Russia. It is simply assumed that Russia is allegedly behind this. But there is not even a subject for discussion here. If we do this professionally, then we should follow Putin's proposals of September 25, which set out a program of how to work with this if we are talking about something serious. Since the United States is not ready for such a decision and is not even inclined to discuss it, it means that we assume that they have a different political attitude. And no matter what we do, no matter what refutations we give, no matter how many rhetorical techniques we use to refute it, the situation will not change. Therefore, I do not see a subject for discussion on this topic.
We are much more concerned about the fact that at one time the situation with the so-called malicious activity in cyberspace was mounted by some responsible persons in Washington in the context of their nuclear policy. The consequences of this are extremely dangerous, and this is one of the manifestations of Washington's readiness to go to a steady lowering of the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. I would like to once again warn our American colleagues against such a light-hearted approach to my doctrinal view of what nuclear weapons are and whether their use is generally acceptable. But Washington's General bias that only it is right, alternative opinions are excluded, and those who hold other views on what is happening, other interpretations, should be put under pressure. this bias dominates US foreign policy in various aspects, and I think that we will not get rid of it even after the inauguration of the next American President. This increases risks for international security, complicates normal interstate communication and, of course, does not add prospects to Russian-American relations.
- And yet, most of our proposals have long been on the table for the Americans. What do we expect from the new Biden administration, given that, in principle, people from his team are known to Moscow, what will be the priorities in our relations?
- We definitely don't expect anything good. And it would be strange to expect good things from people who, many of them, have spent their careers on Russophobia and throwing mud at my country. Therefore, if they have some kind of their own, as they say, selfish interest in talking to us in a substantive way, not with slogans, but about something so practical, we will always be open to this. If this ideologization of relations with Russia continues, if we continue to develop an approach to Russia as a strategic rival, opponent, enemy, whatever you want to call it, then we will treat them in the same way.
In my opinion, the Russian Federation should adopt a two-track approach: total containment of the United States in all areas, since US policy is deeply hostile to Russia and contradicts our fundamental interests. This is the first side – deterrence. The second side is a selective dialogue, involving the United States only in those subjects that we are interested in, not in those subjects that are interesting only to them. When we move on to these tracks, then, I think, there may be some grounds for gradual normalization of relations with Washington.
"Do they need us?"
"I don't care.
- Let's say they are now closing the consulates General, is this a sign that they are losing even more interest in us or not?
"It's possible. I fully accept that this is true. But the most important thing is that this should not concern us at all, it should not turn into a topic for our internal discussion, in my opinion. Of course, it is a pity that the service, from the consular point of view, for those who, due to circumstances, interests, some connections, contacts, have to apply to American consulates, is complicated. But in the end, it will not be us or the Russian side who will have to be blamed for the fact that people, conditionally, from the far Eastern Federal district will need to apply to the consular Department of the US Embassy in Moscow for a visa.
I admit that this was done deliberately on the American side, but many logical moves and chains of some arguments in favor of certain decisions in the American system, as it has developed today, are not obvious to me, and I do not undertake to interpret them. I know for a fact that there was no interest in normalizing relations with the Russian Federation during the trump administration. A very strong influence on these relations was exerted by a group of functionaries and politicians who really believe that Russia is an enemy and, accordingly, only pressure methods with Russia work, in which they are deeply mistaken, and the whole practice of our relations proves these ideas wrong. And the third thing is that in General, the level of expertise and approach to foreign policy issues, in my opinion, in Washington has significantly decreased in recent years. Accordingly, the risk of miscalculations and mistakes has increased, which have been made quite a lot recently by the Americans, including in the Russian direction.
- Will we somehow respond to this tightening of export controls? The United States, for example, has tightened restrictions on two of our space companies. Can we, for example, take and still stop supplying them with RD rocket engines or something else, or do we leave them without an answer at all?
"No, they won't buy rocket engines themselves. They have created a certain supply of these engines for a sufficiently comfortable period for them. They do not hide the fact that in all areas they are going to cut off cooperation ties with us for two reasons. The first reason is the weakening of their" dependence " on us, on Russia, in some areas of cooperation, including in the space sector. But this is not an addiction, it is a mutually beneficial cooperation, in my opinion.
And the second is just an ideologized approach to the fact that it is necessary to deprive Russia of any income and displace Russia from any markets, starting with its own, this is just an installation. Do you understand? And when you tell the Americans that this is somehow indecent in General, colleagues, they simply do not understand what we are talking about. What do you mean indecent? If you are the enemy, then you should be sitting in your own trench, and we will, accordingly, do everything to make it worse and more difficult for you. This is the essence of the US policy in the Russian direction, it is very clear. We just need to proceed from this ourselves and have no illusions about who we are dealing with on the other side. And this will be fully preserved, in full, under the next administration.
I think this is generally a long-term trend. And now, in this sense, there is a certain historical moment of truth, when the masks are thrown off and when there is no longer any reason to cover with some kind of verbal husk some things that have become quite obvious recently. This is what is called the naked truth of life, it must be perceived in all its diversity as it is.
- Do you mean to curtail cooperation ties everywhere, in all areas?
- The United States is determined not just to deprive us of the opportunity to interact normally in various areas with ourselves, as they say, but to prevent our normal interaction with the rest of the world. This is one of the key components of Washington's policy in the Russian direction.
- The main intrigue of the near future in the Biden administration is the fate of the start Treaty. Taking into account everything that Moscow has already stated at various levels, and the fact that, as you have already mentioned, we have no contacts with the future administration yet, it turns out that the decision to extend this agreement after January 20 will have 15 days, two weeks. If the Biden administration expresses its willingness to extend the Contract, can it be done in 15 days? Are there any mechanisms for this?
- In my opinion, it is impossible to ratify the extension agreement - this is an analogy of full ratification of an international Treaty-during this time. I don't want to go into any options that are probably being discussed, but in order for this to happen, we need to understand what the next US administration would be ready for. We don't have any signals from the other side, other than what the media reports and what was discussed during the Biden campaign, let's just say, we don't have.
Meanwhile, December 20 marks exactly one year since the Russian side sent an official note to the United States of America with a proposal to extend the Agreement without preconditions for a 5-year period. There is no answer, and it probably won't be in the coming month. But we will not ask again, because the discussion of this topic gives a false impression that we are more concerned about this situation than the other side.
The start Treaty is the result of joint efforts and joint work. This is one of the few documents that exist in relations between Russia and the United States, which, according to those who deal with it professionally, has not developed its resource and, by and large, can continue to serve the national interests of both Russia and the United States. If the American side is not ready to extend this document in the form it was signed, then its current attitude to the Treaty is dominated by interests and approaches that have nothing to do with the task of ensuring strict military security. This means that there are many contributing factors. Most likely, it is. Whether anything will change after the inauguration of the next us President is an open question.
There is a significant aspect related to the fact that we will not persuade anyone about anything, because the document is balanced, there are no unilateral benefits for Russia. On the contrary, I would like to tell you that at the stage of discussing the Treaty and its ratification in the Federal Assembly, questions were raised about a number of aspects of this document to the Executive authorities, to the authors of this document, to those who agreed on it.
But in the same way-the same, not similar, but to the same extent, questions were asked in Washington. This is evidence that the document contains a correct, stable balance of interests, namely a balance. We are not to a greater extent than the United States have an interest in maintaining this arrangement. If the United States drops it, we will deal with it as a fait accompli. Ultimately, the question is now for Washington: what and how it is going to do, and there are technical options for issuing an extension. They are complicated due to time constraints, but here the case is not hopeless.
- President Putin said at a press conference that the arms race is already underway. This attracted attention, because before that we always said that we do not intend to get involved in any arms race, that we are not interested in this and will avoid it in every possible way. In the context of the start Treaty, does it mean that if it is not maintained, then some kind of uncontrolled arms race will begin? And in General, the start Treaty can stop this arms race, somehow keep it or not? Or do you need a broader contract?
- We have always said, and this position remains fully valid, that we will not allow ourselves to be drawn into a costly arms race. We talked about the fact that we have created serious groundwork and there are already samples of weapons, something has been put on combat duty, something is on the way, which will guarantee our security for the foreseeable future.
The Russian President spoke on this topic unequivocally and clearly, based on the premise that he also formulated - that if the United States had not withdrawn from the ABM Treaty, everything that happened from 2002 to 2020 in terms of creating weapons systems and models in Russia that other countries, including the United States, do not have today, would not have happened. And from this point of view, a corresponding assessment was given.
But I want to warn you against taking a simplistic view of this process, when you sometimes hear that now these cycles will continue indefinitely, and the resource base in the United States is much more powerful in order to ensure victory in this new race. This won't happen. Firstly, because there is such a thing as the lessons of the past, and secondly, because asymmetry is making itself felt more and more, including in the sphere of maintaining strategic stability. And the logic that once worked, that one warhead should be the same on the other side, there should be numerical parity, and there should be parity in systems, and all this should be aligned in this way-this logic probably still comes from another era.
At the moment, non-linear responses are quite possible, and that is why we say that further efforts to form a new strategic stability equation will need to take into account many factors. And this is a complex process that requires time and thoughtful analysis, and there is still no experience in comparing not only quantitative but also qualitative potentials and determining where this balance is ultimately achieved, which makes it possible to negotiate arms control in the new conditions. We call for this.
Since this is a time-consuming and time-consuming process, of course, in order to create an optimal time frame, it would probably be correct to have a valid start Treaty, so that at least in the areas that are limited by this Treaty, and in systems that are not super-promising, but rather represent what is called the backbone of nuclear deterrence, as we know it today, so that at least in this area there Until we come up with something new, until we come up with a gasoline engine, let's drive a steam car-from this series approximately. Why is it necessary to break everything that exists, in the expectation that we will create something else after some time?
- If, for example, the start Treaty ceases to exist on February 5, will Russia be able to give guarantees to the international community that it will not increase its nuclear Arsenal? It turns out that there will be no international transparency mechanisms? We will be in a closed black box, the Americans in a black box, and the world will not know at all what is happening in our nuclear sphere?
- Let's start with the fact that there are, of course, national technical means of control, which by and large allow us to have a fairly close to reality, let's say, idea of what is happening in this area. And the system of verification measures that is laid down in the start Treaty-inspections, screenings, etc. for all its importance and multi-layered, multi-component nature, it does not cancel out national technical means of control. Probably, it still complements them. Secondly, you can always negotiate. In fact, in the absence of the INF TREATY, we propose to agree on verification of counter-moratoriums on non-deployment.
The President, speaking at the expanded Board of the Ministry of defense, returned to the topic of these moratoriums. The extreme ideologization of the approaches of the United States and its NATO allies to this idea does not allow them to perceive the proposals as an open door through which to pass. If they were really concerned about the security of Europe, the security of Asian regions, what would prevent them from saying: "Okay, Russians, we don't believe you, well, let's try to agree on a regime for checking the absence of such systems in these regions. Let's at least talk about it." No, they say: "You've already created this system, and you have to destroy it, and in fact, it's so mobile that we don't really need to discuss anything further, because you can still move it from one place to another." As if these gravity bombs, stored in four NATO allies in Europe and intended for use with aircraft, are nuclear land mines buried in the ground somewhere in the garden, which can not be transferred anywhere. It just amazes me. This is a reflection of the unwillingness to seriously engage in very important things.
We are ready to discuss any schemes in the field of arms control under one single condition: there should be no ultimatums, there should be no unilateral demands. There should be a healthy balance and a normal approach, by and large. It is the same in the area of the start Treaty. If there is no Agreement after February 5, a new situation will arise - the sky will not fall to the ground, this does not mean that everything will change on February 6, and we will all run to the bomb shelter immediately to the sound of sirens, this will not happen. But then you will just have to look for a different starting point in order to negotiate fragmentally, in segments, in some other configurations. It is difficult. Probably, it is possible, but why should you look for some kind of workaround when you can avoid these difficulties?
- But how can we guarantee to the international community that we will not build up our weapons more than we need?
- Yes, this is the key. In our policy in the field of military construction, including the strategic sphere, we will be guided solely by the task of guaranteeing our security not in excess, but in such a way that we are sure that no one, no potential enemy, can encroach on our security.
- Are we ready to work and convince the Iranians that there are no preconditions for the return of the United States to the JCPOA? And how legitimate are Iran's demands for possible financial compensation to the United States in this case? In turn, the IAEA Director General said that some additional protocols would be required to fully restart this agreement.
- I have not heard about any preconditions from Iran. I know for a fact that Iran has officially declared its readiness to return to full implementation of the JCPOA in the most urgent, urgent way - and for now, let me remind you that Iran's deviations from the JCPOA requirements relate only to those obligations that were made purely voluntarily-to return to the JCPOA as soon as the United States does so. I suspect that the United States will insist on the reverse sequence: let Iran return first, and then we will return.
I don't take questions now about what might arise in terms of any additional requirements, I just take the situation when both sides-Washington and Tehran - proceed from the fact that it is better to keep the JCPOA in the form it was signed and is still valid. By the way, we are also in favor of this. So in this situation, it would probably be right to develop a certain plan, schedule, "road map" of the sequence of steps in advance, so as not to find yourself in a situation of endless argument, who should take the first step, who should blink first, etc. And we just spoke out in favor of this.
At one time, phasing and reciprocity as principles for the development of the JCPOA were proposed by Russia, Minister Lavrov, and they formed the basis of this scheme. Now, probably, graphically it can be represented as a step-by-step and reciprocity with the opposite sign, how to return to implementation. But this is a natural, I would say political-mathematical approach, it suggests itself, there is nothing special about it, we are in favor of it. But if you start adding something else to the existing deal, then the situation will probably worsen dramatically. That is why we consider it wrong and untimely to put forward ideas like the JCPOA+.
The Iranians also note that their interest, firstly, is that they still receive economic benefits from participating in this deal, which they were deprived of, especially after the trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in may 2018. But other aspects of all this vast set of issues that our Western colleagues are talking about are, as I understand it, causing rejection in Tehran. In General, I am quite inclined to admit that the logic of the Iranians can not be denied here: for different aspects of these stories, which we are talking about regardless of the JCPOA, there are their own formats, and they should be discussed there. We have proposed the concept of security in the Persian Gulf and how it can be discussed. The Chinese have suggested it, the Iranians have put forward a security initiative in the Strait of Hormuz, and there is experience in holding a corresponding dialogue under the auspices of the European external action service with the participation of Iran and some other countries. All this can be organized if desired, but the first priority should be to restore the JCPOA in the form it was signed. And here we need a certain algorithm that can be fully agreed upon, provided, of course, that the next US administration shows interest in this, and does not find itself in the captivity of the policy of maximum pressure, sanctions pressure in the form that it has been practiced by the trump administration for a long time.