Top Russian diplomat skeptical about nuclear pact extension

Marshall Billingslea special US presidential envoy for arms control visits Tokyo in September 2020 on an Asian tour he cut short due to hopes of a breakthrough with Russia

Marshall Billingslea special US presidential envoy for arms control visits Tokyo in September 2020 on an Asian tour he cut short due to hopes of a breakthrough with Russia

The United States on Friday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to extend the New START nuclear treaty for one year unconditionally, countering that both nations must cap warheads during the period.

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien has stated that the White House views Putin's offer of a one-year extension of the New START Treaty without any preconditions as a "non-starter".

Putin, speaking at a meeting by video link with Russia's Security Council that was broadcast on state television, said the treaty had worked effectively until now and it would be "extremely sad" if it were to stop working.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin Friday that "intensive" consultations on the treaty are underway.

Trump administration officials have asked the United States military how long it would take to load existing nuclear weapons onto bombers and submarines if the treaty is not extended next year, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Last month Billingslea threatened Russia that the Trump administration could increase the cost of extending New START - by "including a lot of the other bad behavior that the Russians are engaged in around the world" in the nuclear negotiations - if Moscow does not commit to meeting U.S. demands before the American presidential election.

The terms of New START meant both nations could actively deploy no more than 1,550 active nuclear warheads, whether attached to intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines or aircraft. It had replaced the Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was to expire in 2012.

The Defense Intelligence Agency a year ago projected that Russia's overall stockpile of nuclear weapons would "grow significantly" over the next decade, driven by an increase in shorter-range, or non-strategic, weapons that are not governed by the New START treaty. They're not interested. We were prepared to go forward with a U.S. -Russia arms control deal.

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The top Russian diplomat also noted that Moscow wouldnt accept the USA demand to have intrusive verification measures like those that existed in the 1990s when inspectors were positioned at missile factories.

The top U.S. negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, suggested in a tweet later Friday that talks between the two countries were over. Russian Federation has also said it's ready to discuss including its latest state-of-the-art weapons in the treaty, as part of an extension.

Shortly after Billingslea spoke, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov dismissed the USA proposal as "unacceptable", and said the Trump administration should not expect Russia to sign any arms control agreement "timed to coincide with their elections".

Days earlier, Mr. Lavrov said that while he does not see a future for the agreement with the US, talks will continue.

Besides the inclusion of China, Washington's insistence to have tactical nuclear weapons and new weapons covered by New START or its replacement has been another issue in the talks, said Kashin.

In the current conditions extending the treaty for a year would be "ideal", he said.

"We understand that we have developed new weapons systems that the United States side does not possess, for now, at least". But given where the two sides are, we think it's wise for President Trump to say yes to Putin's offer for one year unconditional extension.

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