"The current relations between Russia and the United States struggle through the worst times. Historians, politicians, political scientists cannot recall any other time when our relations were in such a miserable state," Antonov said. "Other countries, international peace and security all suffer because of this. The worse the US-Russia relations get, the worse the situation concerning security as well as nuclear arsenals’ reduction and limitation in the world becomes."
Antonov emphasized that Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility for maintaining global peace and security as they are the world’s biggest nuclear powers and permanent members on the UN Security Council.
Moreover, the United States and Russia are currently in visa war with each other, Antonov said. "In my mind, we have a visa war between the United States and the Russian Federation," Antonov said on Friday. "We have so many problems but again I would like to say — and I have confirmed it many times at the State Department and the White House — that we are ready to stop this visa war."
Russian Envoy to the US also stressed that he has been denied permission by the US authorities to enter the closed Consulate General in San Francisco, and will examine the building from the outside on Sunday. Antonov, who is visiting San Francisco, said a request was sent to the US authorities seeking permission to enter closed Consulate General.
"We received the answer — no," Antonov said. The Russian ambassador noted that he has also been denied permission to check the building of the Russian Trade Representative in Washington DC that has been ceased by US authorities.
"There is no possibility for me even to enter this building," Antonov said. Every two weeks Russia sends a note to the United States requesting permission for the country’s ambassador and other diplomats to be allowed to enter the Russian property and the answer is "no" without offering any explanation, Antonov explained.
Russian Ambassador also told reporters that he offered to organize a bilateral meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
Lavrov told a press conference at the UN General Assembly that current US-Russia relations are probably the worst ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Moscow and Washington.
Meanwhile, a new agreement on strategic offensive weapons will unlikely be reached by 2021 because of the current confrontation between Moscow and Washington, Antonov said.
"All the more pressing issue is what will happen to nuclear disarmament after 2021, when the New START is set to expire," Antonov said. "Due to a deep crisis in the Russia-US relations it would be naïve to assume that our countries are likely to conclude a new treaty on strategic offensive arms by 2021."
That is why Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested considering a possibility of extending the New START for another five years, he added. "The Americans are silent," Antonov continued. "We hope that the United States will not delay its response and voice its opinion on the treaty, which was previously regarded by the majority of countries as a "golden standard" in disarmament."
Russia is focused on upholding the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and considers the accord to be a key component of international security, Antonov stressed.
"We are focused on bolstering and implementing the NPT, which is the cornerstone agreement of non-proliferation and disarmament," Antonov told students at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. "We consider the NPT to be a fundamental element of global stability and security. It is a reliable barrier against nuclear weapons proliferation."
Antonov said Russia strictly adheres to its obligations under the NPT, as well as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.
In June, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom issued a statement to mark the 50th anniversary of the NPT accord in which they pledged to advance the elimination of nuclear arms and reaffirmed their commitment to support the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) aimed at achieving the full elimination of nuclear weapons arsenals.
"Apart from its non-proliferation dimension, the NPT is a unique tool that promotes nuclear disarmament, as well as international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Antonov said. "We stand for reaching the goal of reaching the world free of nuclear threat."
Antonov pointed out that there is a forthcoming Review Conference of the NPT Parties in 2020 and said Russia is ready to participate.
"Our biggest accomplishment is that in February of 2018 we met all requirements under the New START Treaty," Antonov said. "We haven’t received any complaints in this regard. However, we have questions to our American colleagues on how they have been implementing the Treaty’s provisions."
In addition, Antonov said there are also questions as to other nuclear states’ implementation of the NPT Article VI, which stipulates that each party should pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under effective international control. "We’ll have to check out their reports during the conference, or, just as before, they will mostly confine to criticism from Russia and the United States," Antonov said.
The NPT was signed on July 1, 1968 and went into effect in March 1970. There are 190 parties to the accord, but India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and South Sudan are not signatories.
Meanwhile, Moscow hopes that the United States will soon finalize interagency coordination so that the channels of bilateral communication on strategic stability will resume, Russian Ambassador to the United States said.
"It is necessary to revive the channels of [US-Russian] bilateral communication on strategic stability and create conditions that will allow us to advance strengthening non-proliferation of the WMD and means of their delivery, to preserve and adapt, where necessary, mechanisms of arms control," Antonov said. "We hope that the US administration will soon finalize interagency coordination of its approaches that will not leave the international community disappointed."
Antonov said positive momentum for international stability was gained during the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Helsinki in July. "The intent of both presidents to bolster international security is evident," Antonov said. "It is regretful, though, that it has not been put into tangible actions. We are ready for a constructive dialogue."
Russia, he added, requires an equal dialogue with mutual consideration of each other's interests. Such action will have a positive impact on international stability, peace and security, Antonov said.
Relations between the United States and Russia worsened following their disagreement over the crisis in Ukraine. The United States imposed several round of sanctions against Russia after Crimea held a referendum in 2014 in which a vast majority of residents decided to reunify with Russia. Washington also accused Moscow of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and has imposed additional rounds of sanctions. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.
At the end of August 2017, the US State Department announced that the United States had demanded that Russia close down its Consulate General in San Francisco and two other diplomatic entities in New York City and Washington, DC. Washington’s move came after Moscow announced in July of 2017 that the diplomatic presence of the United States in Russia would be scaled down by 755 people to 455, the same number of diplomatic personnel Russia has in the United States since late 2016, when 35 Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States.
However, Moscow is hopeful the upcoming meeting between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and US National Security Adviser John Bolton will be productive, Antonov said Friday.
"At this stage you know we [US, Russia] have only one channel of communication at the level of Mr. Bolton and Mr. Patrushev," Antonov said in Monterey, California. "I hope that forthcoming meeting between Mr. Bolton and Mr. Patrushev will be successful."
Earlier in the day, a source told Sputnik that Patrushev’s meeting with Bolton is scheduled during the US national security adviser's visit to Moscow on October 22-23.