© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after the ASEAN summit at Phnom Penh airport, Cambodia November 13, 2022. ASEAN2022 Phnom Penh Media Center/Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow was willing to play a responsible part in nuclear arms control but it was impossible to discuss nuclear stability while ignoring Western involvement in the war in Ukraine.
“It is crystal clear that it is impossible to discuss strategic stability today while ignoring everything that is happening in Ukraine. Because the goal in Ukraine has been declared – not to save Ukrainian democracy, but to defeat Russia on the battlefield, or even destroy Russia,” he said.
Ukraine’s Western allies say they are arming Kyiv to help it defend itself against Russian aggression, rejecting Russia’s assertions that they are exploiting Ukraine as part of a strategy to weaken and defeat Russia or even break it up.
Lavrov said Moscow had expressed willingness in the past to discuss extending its New START nuclear arms treaty with Washington to take account of its latest hypersonic weapons.
He said Russia had also been prepared to go beyond a joint statement with the United States in June 2021, which said a nuclear war could not be won and should never be fought, by saying that any war between nuclear powers would be unacceptable.
However, he said it was “naive” of the United States to expect Russia to discuss strategic nuclear issues while – in Moscow’s eyes – trying to destroy it.
Russia this week pulled out of talks it had been due to hold with the United States in Cairo on the New START treaty, which limits the number of nuclear warheads each side can deploy. It blamed the dire state of relations, accusing Washington of toxic anti-Russian behaviour.