Russia and the United States will start expert-level talks in Vienna on Monday to discuss space security, nuclear doctrine and potential, as well as transparency and verification.
The first day of the meetings will focus on space.
Last week, the US expressed hope that the space dialogue with Russia will strengthen bilateral understanding of each other’s policies and prevent any potential escalation.
US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford said that the two could benefit from having a communications channel to address concerns over space activity.
At the same time, he slammed Russia for “hypocritical advocacy” of outer space arms control over its alleged testing of an anti-satellite weapon.
The US Space Command stated on Wednesday to have evidence that Russia conducted a “non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon” on July 15. The command argued that the activities in question looked inconsistent with the mission of an inspector satellite.
The Russian Foreign Ministry fired back by saying that “the testing did not pose any threat to other space objects and, most importantly, did not violate any norms and principles of the international law”.
According to the ministry, a Russian inspector satellite simply inspected another Russian spacecraft at close range, using special equipment for this purpose.
Moscow has denounced the US’ claims as a campaign to discredit Russia’s space demilitarisation initiatives, justify its own actions to weaponise space and get additional funding to this end.
Ahead of the space security talks, Ford himself rejected Russia’s and China’s space arms control initiatives as “bad ideas”. According to the official, the two “attempt to approach the space domain in a sort of traditional and reflexive arms control sort of way of defining a space weapon then purporting to ban it”.
Ford argued the challenge of such initiatives is that it is “virtually impossible” to adequately define what a space weapon is and then verify compliance with this rule. Another aspect, he added, is that the proposals have failed to address earth-based anti-satellite weapons.
The US, Ford insists, hopes to “pursue good ideas” to work out standards of predictable and safe behaviour in space.
The next three days of the Vienna talks will be devoted to nuclear issues.
Moscow offers to extend the New START treaty, the last major arms control agreement between Russia and the United States, which is set to expire in February 2021.
The US continues pushing for trilateral arms control. China, which has a much smaller nuclear arsenal, has repeatedly firmly rejected the idea of joining the process.
Following strategic nuclear talks in Vienna in June, Russian deputy foreign minister in charge of non-proliferation, Sergey Ryabkov, said he did not feel that the US was ready to extend New START treaty.
This time, the Russian delegation will be led by Vladimir Leontiev, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, a diplomatic source told Sputnik.
The US team will be comprised of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense and Energy, as well as the National Security Council.
News Source: Business Standard