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If the United States expects to win the next arms race then Washington is mistaken, a senior Russian diplomat said in remarks published on Wednesday, adding that a military conflict between Moscow and NATO cannot be ruled out.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister in charge of ties with the US, non-proliferation and arms control, told the Izvestia daily that present circumstances were not “conducive” to arms talks with Washington.

“If the United States expects to win the next arms race, repeating to some extent the experience of the presidency of Ronald Reagan … then the Americans are mistaken,” Izvestia cited Ryabkov as saying.

“We will not succumb to provocations …. but we can guarantee that we will ensure our security.”

Russia’s ties with many Western countries deteriorated after its full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, with Moscow now saying it is fighting what it calls the “collective West” in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the West he was “not bluffing” when he said he would use nuclear weapons if Russia’s territorial integrity was threatened, and has held out the possibility that Russia could resume nuclear testing.

Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s position that Moscow was not threatening a military conflict with NATO, but said a possible escalation depended on the action of the alliance.

Ukraine support of ‘existential importance’ to Europe: Scholz

“The onus is entirely on NATO’s side,” he said. Moscow’s ties with Washington were so bad that a “rupture” was possible, but Russia would “never initiate such a step”, he added.

“The situation is not conducive to exchanging signals (on arms controls), even on such key issues,” Ryabkov said.

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