Donald Trump’s national security adviser struck a conciliatory tone in talks in Moscow, just days after the US president vowed to pull out of a key arms control treaty with Russia.
John Bolton landed in Moscow on Monday less than 48 hours after Mr Trump said that Russia violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and warned that the US would begin developing such weapons unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop them.
China was not a party to the pact that was signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that prohibits the US and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu lauded Mr Bolton for his two-day visit and said that “even small steps will benefit our relations and help restore trust” between the two countries.
He also said that Russia and the US should build up on their co-operation in Syria which helped to prevent major incidents in the sky or on the ground.
“We certainly share your view that the US-Russian discussions with respect to Syria have been useful, productive and professional, and we hope we can extend those conversations through a number of other ways that you mentioned, and even more,” he said.
In televised comments, neither Mr Bolton nor Mr Shoigu mentioned Mr Trump’s announcement on the INF treaty.
In an interview with the Ekho Moskvy Russian radio station on Monday, Mr Bolton made it clear that Washington has made up its mind about leaving the treaty.
“If Russia says it’s not violating the INF treaty, what are they going to do to change their behaviour to comply?” he said.
Mr Bolton also said in the interview that the Trump administration is still considering its position on extending new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed by Barack Obama and then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2011 and which expires in 2021.
Mr Bolton met with Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev on Monday and he is expected to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin later on Tuesday.