INF, New START treaties to top agenda of Munich security conference, says expert

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MOSCOW, February 14. /TASS/. The cessation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the future of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the new START Treaty) will top the agenda of the Munich security conference, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe Vladislav Belov told TASS on Thursday.

“A lot of themes will be discussed, including Syria and Iran, as well as new US sanctions that will possibly be imposed against Russia,” the expert said.

“But, of course, the focus will be on the INF and New START issues, namely, the prospects and the destiny of these treaties,” he pointed out.

As the expert explained, the point at issue is whether “the parties to these treaties will be able to draw someone from big players who have intermediate-range missiles, for example, China and India.”

“To my mind, this is hardly probable but at least there will be signals that the players are ready for something new,” he said.

The issues of the INF and New START Treaties are especially important amid the geopolitical situation intensifying in all the directions, Belov said.

“The situation is quite difficult and our [Russia’s] participation in Syria could be called a plus but immediately there arises the issue of Afghanistan and the revival of the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) there where there is actually no progress,” he pointed out.

Gas issue

Russia’s Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project is another issue that could be raised at the Munich security conference, the expert believes.

However, Munich Security Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger noted that no wide discussion of this issue was expected at the forum.

On February 13, the European Council and the European Parliament preliminarily approved the tightening of the European Union’s Gas Directive based on the considerably finalized and softened draft of the amendments worked out by Germany and France.

As a TASS source said earlier, the draft proposed by Berlin and Paris removed two acute problems of the amendments to the Gas Directive: their contradiction to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and it limited the transfer of the sovereign powers of the EU member states to the European Commission. In turn, the DPA news agency has already sated that the finalized Gas Directive won’t block the Nord Stream-2 project.

The deputy director of the Institute of Europe believes that one should not be “greatly inspired by this EU Gas Directive.”

“The compromise that has been found testifies to the fact that there is no crisis between Berlin and Paris. But it is still unknown what US President Donald Trump will undertake and he has pledged to impose sanctions [against Russia]. That is why, the issue remains open,” he noted.

Considering that the US president will be absent from the Munich conference, the US remains the most unpredictable player in this issue,” the expert pointed out.

No Normandy Four meeting expected

As for the discussion of the Ukraine situation on the sidelines of the Munich conference, this issue will be raised because this theme “has not receded into the background and the conflict persists,” Belov said.

“However, it is Kiev that has receded into the background because it is doing nothing in this area and, therefore, it is already of no interest,” the expert pointed out.

In the expert’s opinion, there will be no talks of the foreign ministers from the Normandy Four countries (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine) on the sidelines of the Munich security conference.

“Ukraine is not ready for this [the Normandy Four meeting] and, apparently, does not want this. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will talk with his French and German counterparts and, possibly, even with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin but I do not expect the Normandy format,” the expert said.

The Munich security conference will be held on February 15-17.

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