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Russia Fails In Bid To Schedule UN Vote On Nuclear Treaty Spurned By Trump

Senior Russian arms control official Andrei Belousov
Senior Russian arms control official Andrei Belousov

Russia has failed in a bid at the United Nations to schedule debate on a resolution to preserve a 1987 nuclear arms treaty that U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to abandon.

The UN General Assembly's disarmament committee late on October 26 voted against putting the resolution on the UN's agenda, with 55 nations voting against the Russian proposal and 31 voting in favor. There were 54 abstentions.

The vote represented a victory for the United States, which was seeking to block the Russian proposal, which Moscow had hoped would galvanize global support for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty spurned by Trump.

Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said the Russian proposal was rejected because it was a "very politicized" and it was not submitted in time under an October 18 deadline for considering such proposals.

Senior Russian arms control official Andrei Belousov said he didn't understand the vote, claiming that most of the countries which abstained "are active supporters of nuclear disarmament" and even a significant number of those who voted against the resolution are in favor of preserving the INF treaty.

Russia "tried to send a serious signal to U.S. political circles about the danger of the course chosen by the current administration," he said. "We thought that such an initiative would be supported by all sensible forces."

A UN diplomat told AP that European Union and NATO countries voted against the Russian proposal and asked others to abstain to prevent further escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia and to promote a negotiated solution.

Several of the countries that abstained from voting argued that the issue was more a matter to bring before the UN Security Council, which deals with global security threats.

Russian diplomats said they had not ruled out submitting the proposal to the UN council, where both Moscow and Washington exercise veto power.

Belousov said Russia will work with countries supporting its position to bring the proposal directly before the UN General Assembly, bypassing the disarmament committee

Trump has said he is pulling the United States out of the treaty signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, because Russia has allegedly been violating it since at least 2014 and because the treaty does not cover China, which has been developing missiles banned under the treaty.

The treaty required both Russia and the United States to eliminate an entire class of weapons -- all ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,000 kilometers.

Wood repeated the U.S. accusations on October 26, telling the disarmament committee that for 5 1/2 years the United States has tried to engage Russia on the issue of treaty violations.

He said Moscow only recently admitted producing a ground-launched missile, but maintained it didn't violate the range limits.

"We presented them with information to the contrary, but they continued to deny being in noncompliance with the treaty," Wood said. "Instead of responding to our engagement, we received denials and ridiculous accusations that it is the U.S. that is violating the treaty."

Russia has maintained that some aspects of the U.S. missile-defense system in Europe violate the treaty.

Belousov repeated Russia's stance, saying "we have been making complaints about this since 2000" but "they run from us."

Belousov claimed that at a recent meeting, U.S. officials declared that Russia was preparing for war.

"Yes, Russia is preparing for a war. I confirm it," the Russian envoy said. "Yes, we are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our people."

"The Russian Federation is preparing for war, and the United States of America is preparing for a war... That is the fact," Belousov said.

He said the Russian proposal at the UN was designed to convince the United States "to take a constructive position, continue the dialogue...and refrain from building up its nuclear potential" -- something Trump has threatened to do once he withdraws from the treaty.

Media reported that the draft Russian resolution described the INF treaty as a "cornerstone" of world peace and stability and called for keeping it in place. It also called on Moscow and Washington to restart talks on resolving complaints on both sides of treaty violations.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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