The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between Russia and the United States broke down in 2019, after the United States left the agreement, citing Moscow's alleged violations of its terms. The claims were denied by Russia which has repeatedly urged its partner to come back to the Treaty.

On Monday, Russia's ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov called Washington's attempts to pressure China in relation to arms control "untenable".

"Consultations and negotiations on arms control should be conducted on a free, voluntary basis, taking into account the legitimate interests of the parties", Antonov said during a televised conference.

 The envoy added that it was premature to describe Russia and the United States as being "on the threshold" of arms control agreements, after the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty back in 2019 and as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as the New START, is on the verge of expiring.

The official still positively assessed Washington's rejection of "utopian demand" for China's "immediate involvement" into bilateral arms control process.

Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the U.S. gestures while speaking during a round-table discussion on the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 20, 2018.

The United States has repeatedly invited China to join arms control talks in relation to renewing of New START agreement, something Beijing said it was not interested in. 

According to Antonov, the arms reduction regime was at present "in crisis".

"The collapse of decades-old agreements and norms continues. The level of trust between the participating countries is catastrophically declining. The arms race is reviving, we see a tendency towards a unilateral military build-up", the ambassador stated.

Arms Control Under Threat

The INF was signed by Russia and the US back in 1987, effectively banning the use of short medium-range and intermediate-range land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and their launchers. The United States - which announced its withdrawal from the agreement in February 2019 - has claimed in the past few years that Russia has violated terms of the agreement, something Moscow strongly denies.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the US exit from the INF Treaty was a "grave mistake" which created the risk of unleashing a missiles arms race, "increasing the possibility of a confrontation and escalating uncontrollably".

The last remaining major arms control deal between Russia and the United States, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), is set to expire on 5 February 2021, but it is not clear when or whether the agremeent would be renewed. 

Speaking on Monday, Russia's envoy Antonov called upon the US to refuse attempts to "trade advantages" in the last days of START existence.

In October, Antonov said he has recently confirmed that the US was now ready to deploy intermediate and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region (APAC). The envoy slammed the move, arguing that Russia would respond to Washington's actions with "adequate steps", the statement he repeated on Monday.

Russia Rejects US Proposals on New START Verification, Ryabkov Says

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested extending the last arms control agreement between the United States and Russia for another year without any conditions, stressing that a world without the New START would be worryingly vulnerable.

Moscow maintains active dialogue on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), but will not make any other concessions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov further elaborated that Moscow does not accept the US proposal for verification within the framework of the New START.

"We have the full impression that the Americans do not need any agreements, they only need verification. And verification, in the way proposed by them, is, basically, to establish external control over the most sensitive elements of ensuring the entire systems of our national security. This is unacceptable for us", the deputy minister said.

According to Ryabkov, Russia "cannot agree to such a proposal for higher reasons".

"We said and continue to say that any agreement in this area is possible only where both interests are balanced, as a certain compromise. We are ready for this but see no indication that the US side is prepared to compromise. Therefore we conclude that attaining basic agreement in the present segment is, to put it mildly, doubtful", the diplomat noted.

He added that Moscow is disappointed by the signs it sees from the US regarding an extension of the New START.

"We are having vigorous talks with the US on these issues. The signs we are getting from them disappoint us. The Americans do not seem to understand that we cannot implement proposals, when the US, rather than making requests, keeps piling on demand after demand", Ryabkov said.

The statement comes after Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Russia is urging the US to stop trying to bargain for benefits in the last days of the New START. Antonov also pointed out that Washington has bluntly rejected to prolong the treaty as it was signed without any conditions.

\On 22 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "nothing bad will happen" if the New START gets extended for one year, as it would provide both sides with more time to find a compromise. US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has commented on Putin’s proposal calling it a "non-starter". 

The United States had previously suggested prolonging the treaty for one year if Moscow and Washington froze the number of their nuclear warheads during that period.

The New START that is set to expire in February 2021, is the last arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.

Putin Says US Withdrawal From INF 'Grave Mistake', Creates Risk of Nuclear Arms Race

In August 2019 the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, citing Russia's alleged violation of the agreement's terms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Says US exit from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was a "grave mistake" which creates the risk of a renewal of the nuclear arms race.

"We consider the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, as a result of which it has ceased to operate, a serious mistake that increases the risks of unleashing a missile arms race, increasing confrontational potential and sliding into uncontrolled escalation," reads the statement cited by the Kremlin press service.

According to the Russian president, the INF Treaty, which Washington left back in 2019, was a key element of the global security architecture, and threats to it in Europe were "obvious" due to tensions between NATO and Russia. 

"The Treaty played a special role in maintaining predictability and restraint in the missile-related sector throughout Europe", the president said.

Moscow added that Russia was "ready" to take the necessary steps to play down the impact caused by the Treaty's demise. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin

"We also call on all interested countries to search for schemes for maintaining stability and preventing missile crises 'in a world without an INF Treaty' in relation to the Asia-Pacific region. We are open to joint work in this direction," the Russian president said while detailing some concrete measures to decrease Russia-US military tensions.

The president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov later clarified that Putin's initiative was brand-new and had not been previously elaborated with international partners.

The US Exit From INF

In February 2019, Washington announced that it was giving a six-month notice of withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the agreement signed between Russia and the United States back in 1987 which effectively banned all short medium-range and intermediate-range land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and launchers. One of the cited reasons for the US decision was Russia's alleged failure "to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its non-compliant missile system".

In August the same year, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the INF, stating that Moscow was "solely responsible for the treaty’s demise".

The Kremlin repeatedly denied these allegations and offered the US the opportunity to continue discussions over the fulfilment of the treaty, but the White House refused.

Earlier Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said that it was confirmed by him that Washington was ready to deploy intermediate and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region (APAC). Antonov said that the move suggests that "the range of these missiles would reach the Russian Federation, covering strategic targets of tactical nuclear deterrence", prompting Russia to take "adequate steps" in response.