missile

(L) Russian RS-12M Topol ICBM test Russian Defence Ministry / handout via Sputnik; (R) US Minuteman III ICBM test US Air Force / handout via Reuters
Moscow is ready to prolong the crucial New Start arms control treaty without any preconditions - and even negotiate on its new, state-of-art weaponry - yet the US is dodging the talks, Russia's FM Sergey Lavrov has said.

One of the last obstacles on the path of the unhinged nuclear arms race, the US-Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is set to expire in a year. Still Moscow and Washington have been unable to engage into any meaningful discussion on it yet, since the US has been ignoring the repeated calls for dialogue, Lavrov said during an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper.

Moscow's position is clear - it's ready to extend the existing treaty right away - and it has been repeatedly voiced by the top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin. Instead of discussing the existing pact, however, the US has been insisting on dragging China into it.

"Beijing has repeatedly stated that it will not join such talks, since China's architecture of nuclear forces is entirely different compared to one of Russia and the US. In pure numbers, they are far below the level at which any conversation about the 'balance' is possible," Lavrov explained.

"If China suddenly changes its mind, we'll certainly participate in multilateral talks. But we will not try to persuade Beijing. If Americans believe any New Start talks are pointless without China - they should do it."

Apart from that, Russia, the US and China are not the only nuclear-armed countries, Lavrov reminded, and any multilateral arms control deal should actually involve other actors as well. The UK, France, India, Pakistan, as well as "a couple" of other countries have nuclear weaponry - and Russia is ready for talks with all of them in any format possible.

"Even if a multilateral process actually begins, it will be very lengthy - it is impossible to conclude negotiations on such a serious matter within several months. That's why it's important to have the New Start prolonged as safety net," Lavrov said, explaining that keeping the agreement in place will help both Washington and Moscow to avoid international "accusations of destroying a legally-binding instrument of strategic stability."

Moscow is also ready to include its new, modern ballistic missiles and state-of-art hypersonic systems into discussions of the treaty.

"The Americans are interested in our new weaponry. We've already said that our military is ready to consider at least a part of these weapons, such as Avangard and Sarmat, as subjects of this Treaty."

Still, Moscow is ready to negotiate on such weapons only in the context of what led to their creation in the first place, namely the US-caused demise of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) back in 2002, Lavrov noted, adding that no one should expect any unilateral concessions from Russia.

"Certainly, we are ready to discuss our new weaponry, as well as new weaponry of other countries," Lavrov said. "And if they offer us to put our weapons under restrictions, while themselves developing [such systems] unimpeded - such talks will not get us anywhere."