Following a meeting with his American counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the two countries shoulder “a special responsibility” for maintaining strategic stability in the world as nuclear powers, and that Washington and Moscow have agreed to start a round of talks on arms control soon.
“The United States and the Russian Federation bear a special responsibility for strategic stability in the world, proceeding from the fact that they are the two major nuclear superpowers in terms of nuclear warheads, re-entry vehicles and delivery means, as well as the weapons’ quality and up-to-dateness,” Putin told reporters following a meeting with his American counterpart Joe Biden in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday.
Putin and Biden also signed a joint statement on the matter following their summit.
“We...note that even in periods of tension, the United States and Russia have demonstrated that they are able to make progress in our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war,” the statement posted to the Kremlin’s official website read.
“The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” it added.
Under the New START treaty, initially signed in 2010, Russia and the US are limited to an equal number of deployed strategic warheads and weapons carrying them, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future which will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures,” the statement concluded.
Regarding the Ukraine conflict and Kiev’s bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, the Russian leader said there was nothing of substance to discuss.
He added that he and Biden had agreed that the Minsk agreements should serve as the basis for settling the long-running clashes between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
Return of ambassadors
Elsewhere in his remarks, Putin said at the talks with his US counterpart they agreed to return their ambassadors to their workplaces in Moscow and Washington in a bid to lower tensions.
“As for the return of the ambassadors to their posts – the US ambassador to Moscow and, respectively, the Russian ambassador to Washington, we agreed on it. This issue has been resolved,” the Russian leader told reporters.
Diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington deteriorated in March, when Biden said he thought Putin was a “killer,” prompting Russia to recall its ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov for consultations. The US recalled its ambassador John Sullivan from Moscow in April. Neither has since returned.
The diplomatic spat sank further after the Biden administration slapped a new round of sanctions against Russia, targeting the country’s sovereign debt and introducing other major financial and banking sector restrictions on Moscow.
Putin also stressed that it was Moscow’s sovereign right to determine whether or not to allow foreign ships to pass through inland seas in the Arctic, but that Russia was not abusing such a right.
He also confirmed that the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US State Department would work on the question of the exchange of prisoners following the summit.
In a separate post-meeting news conference, Biden he had raised human rights issues with Putin, including the fate of the imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, as well as the Syrian conflict, and had asked the Russian leader to cooperate regarding Iran’s nuclear activities.
Biden also vowed to take action against any Russian cyberattacks.
“I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it,” the US president said.
Biden said he told Putin that critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyberattacks, saying that included 16 sectors that he did not publicly identify.
Putin, for his part, dismissed Washington's allegations that Russians were responsible for cyberattacks on the United States.
He also pointed out that Washington was in no position to lecture Moscow on human rights.