mw. Just a few weeks after the summit meeting of the two presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva on 16 June 2021, high-ranking representatives of Russia and the USA began the agreed dialogue on nuclear disarmament there, also in Geneva. At the meeting on 28 July, the Russian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the American delegation by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. The talks are to continue as early as the end of September.
“It is an attempt to set a new example.”
The statements of both countries as well as many media agree: The fact that Russians and Americans are sitting down at the table again after years and are talking to each other is an important first step towards the urgently needed détente between the great powers.
“The governments of both countries saw the meeting as a promising sign for global security. Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, classified it as a starting point for the agreed dialogue. [...] ‘The talks in Geneva were professional and business-like,’ he said. [...] According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, it was a positive signal that experts from both countries had met. ‘We hope that in the course of contacts we will at least manage to put forward more extensively the respective positions,’ he said.”1
Some other media voices: The meeting “is seen as an important signal for global security. Topics for future negotiations are to be defined”.2 “It is a small success, but its importance for international security should not be underestimated.”3 “It is an attempt to set a new example.”4
Bringing the conflicting parties to the table: Switzerland’s Good Offices
As the media rightly note, the aim of the working meeting of 28 July was first of all to sit down at the table with each other and to enter into discussion on an equal footing. It is the task of neutral Switzerland to make this “table” available and to create an atmosphere in which a gradual rapprochement becomes possible. In a report on the Good Offices, the Federal Council says: “Switzerland, in its role as host, guarantees security, calm and discretion for sensitive negotiations. It has the necessary infrastructure to organise and host such events. The positive environment helps the parties in peace negotiations to come closer to solutions. “5 This positive environment is not only important in peace negotiations, as evidenced by the Russian-American summit in June: Its positive outcome is the rapid start of the current disarmament talks.
The Swiss Federal Council and its diplomats will do their best to ensure that this dialogue continues. However, in order to achieve concrete results, not only further rounds of negotiations are needed, but above all the political will on both sides. The decision-makers of the world’s great powers (and their backers) have a responsibility to dismantle their overflowing arsenals and end the horrors of war. The joint statement of the two presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the summit on 16 June goes some way in this direction: they agreed that a nuclear war cannot be won. The Russian President added: “The United States of America and the Russian Federation have a special responsibility for strategic stability in the world, at least on the basis that we are the two largest nuclear powers.” In view of the fact that thousands of nuclear warheads are stored on our globe, a fraction of which would be enough to wipe out all of humanity – along with the rest of nature – one can only hope that the nuclear powers (not only the USA and Russia) will live up to this responsibility as soon as possible.
Switzerland, with its Good Offices, is ready to actively accompany any efforts towards peace. •
1 “Russland und USA nehmen Gespräche über Abrüstung auf”. In: Zeit online (dpa, Reuters, iso) of 28 July 2021
2 «Abrüstungsgespräche: USA und Russland verhandeln in Genf». News@ORF.at of 27 July 2021
3 Kireev, Maxim. “Nach einer Serie von Entspannungsgesten führen die USA und Russland Gespräche in Genf.” In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 28 July 2021
4 “Abrüstungsgespräche zwischen USA und Russland: ‘Ein neues Zeichen’”. Interview with Matthias Dembinski from the Hessischen Stiftung für Friedensforschung. ARD Inforadio of 28 July 2021
5 “Der Bundesrat verabschiedet einen Bericht über die Guten Dienste der Schweiz”. Media Release of 14 December 2018 (see also “Good offices and humanitarian aid of the ICRC”. In: Current Concerns No. 24 of 12 November 2019)
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