April 14, 2020 / 9:54 AM / 2 months ago

Russia says it's ready for hypersonic missile talks with U.S.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is ready to discuss hypersonic missiles and other arms control issues with the United States as part of wider discussions about strategic stability, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is seen after a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto in the House of the Estates in Helsinki, Finland March 3, 2020. Lehtikuva/Markku Ulander via REUTERS

Cold War-era arms control agreements have been in jeopardy as Russia’s relations with the West have soured in recent years.

In August 2019, the United States pulled out of a landmark strategic arms accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), citing Russian non-compliance.

Both countries are developing hypersonic missiles to expand their defence capabilities, with Russian President Vladimir Putin overseeing a test in Crimea in early January.

Such missiles, which fly several times the speed of sound and can be steered in flight, are harder to stop than other generations of weapons. Some experts fear their deployment could trigger a new nuclear arms race.

Lavrov said he wanted to speak to U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again after receiving a call from him a couple of days ago during which he said Pompeo touched on resuming talks on arms control and strategic stability.

“We welcome such interest from our American partners because we have encouraged them to address these problems more actively for a long time,” Lavrov said.

“We are open to talks about new promising developments, including hypersonic weapons in the context of, and I emphasise this especially, taking into account all aspects and factors that influence strategic stability, without exception.”

Moscow has taken steps to mend ties with the West since the coronavirus outbreak.

Russia has flown medical supplies and equipment to the United States and Italy to help them fight the epidemic. Lavrov said Moscow was prepared to fly over more supplies should Washington request them.

Additional reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Peter Graff

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