The Russian deputy foreign minister on Thursday said the US and NATO's increasing involvement in the conflict in Ukraine could result in a direct military clash of nuclear powers "with disastrous consequences."
When Moscow speaks about such risks, its remarks are twisted for propaganda purposes, Sergey Ryabkov said in his address at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
Ryabkov said he spoke in place of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who could not take part in the conference because of EU sanctions against him.
“We view this as an attempt of EU countries to evade an honest dialogue intended to facilitate the long-term improvement of global security and stability including by freeing the world from the burden of WMD-related threats,” he said.
Ryabkov said the US and NATO's "destructive steps" led to problems in international arms control architecture, which is based on four major treaties — Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US left in 2002, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which Washington withdrew in 2019 and the Open Skies Treaty, from which the US withdrew in 2020.
According to him, Russia suspended its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) after US attempts "to probe" the security of Russian strategic facilities declared under the pact by organizing Ukraine's attacks on them.
The diplomat urged to address the situation and create an updated international security architecture, starting from dialogue on working out such options of equal and indivisible security that would ensure minimizing the accumulated conflict potential.
Ryabkov also voiced concern over the US and NATO activities in Asia-Pacific, warning that such actions may lead to "serious shocks" in the region.
Russia's concerns over US activities
The official also criticized the US and NATO's space programs, noting that Russia insists on drafting a multilateral legally binding instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space.
"The ineffective measures proposed by Western countries within the framework of the concept of so-called responsible behavior in space are not able to solve the main task — to preserve outer space as a common security zone free from armed confrontation.
"On the contrary, they are conceived as a veil for the accelerated creation of a combat space potential and its application," he said.
Ryabkov named two more reasons for concern — the US military's alleged biological activities in Ukraine, and the situation with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), saying it has not entered into force due to the US.
According to him, such actions show Washington's "obvious disposition to resume nuclear tests."
He added that Russia is ready to contribute to the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
Ryabkov also recalled that The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remains the foundation of the global architecture of international security, and there is no reason to talk about its crisis.
Russia will not be 1st to test nukes
Russia will not be the first to test a nuclear device, Ryabkov told journalists after his address.
“We are not going to be the first to test a nuclear device,” Ryabkov told a press conference hosted by the UN journalists association (ACANU) at the Russian Mission in Geneva.
“Russia ratified the CTBT in 2000, which was preceded by a lengthy moratorium on nuclear testing,” said Ryabkov, referring to the treaty that has not been ratified by China, India, Israel, Iran, and the US.
“Russia is one of the most reliable partners in this effort. Not just because we fully observe our obligations and commitments in this area, but also because we have heavily invested into the development of the Russian segment of the so-called international monitoring system, which is an element of the CTBT machinery,” the Russian minister said.
Asked about the Russian-US bilateral relations, Ryabkov said communications with US Ambassador Lynn Tracy continue, there are visa problems, and even work of embassies is on the agenda as an issue that needs to be resolved.
"I would not like any further deterioration, the situation as a whole is quite alarming, and one should not underestimate how tense everything is in Russian-American relations," he said.
He said the US was hindering Russia's efforts to take part in an investigation of last September's Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions in the Baltic Sea.
US praises arms control architecture
Meanwhile, US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins said members of the forum have built a wide-ranging and critical set of arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation agreements.
“From the NPT to the Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention to various agreements on nuclear testing and beyond, we have all taken obligations upon ourselves freely under these agreements in service of a broader vision,” said Jenkins.
The Conference on Disarmament comprises of 65 member States, including five NPT nuclear-weapon states and 60 other states of key military significance, such as South Africa which renounced its nuclear status after the end of apartheid in the 1990s.
“Some of us have also created bilateral agreements, like the New START, and obligated ourselves to their parameters and timelines,” he said.
“But only a few days ago President Putin announced that Russia was unilaterally suspending its implementation of the New START Treaty. Russia is once again showing the world that it is not a responsible nuclear power.”
The US official said the world now faces a dramatically unstable security environment that pulls us away from collective action if countries do not live up to their obligations to reduce and manage the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction.
Signed in 2010 and extended in 2021 for another five years, the New START treaty aims to control and reduce strategic nuclear forces used by the US and Russia.
Ryabkov said he held "a professional talk" with the US delegation about the New START on the sidelines of the conference.
He said it is possible that other nuclear powers will join the treaty, but at the moment there is no political will on their part.