During a video conference on Friday with members of Russia’s National Security Council, Vladimir Putin proposed offering to extend the New START treaty with the United States by another year “unconditionally” in order to salvage “substantive talks” on arms control. The New START agreement is due to expire in February 2021.
The Russian president defended the agreement, signed in April 2010 by Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, warning that the world would be less safe without it:
“It would be extremely sad if this treaty ceased to exist and was not replaced by another fundamental document of this kind. During all the previous years, the New START worked and it worked properly, performing its fundamental role as a constraint curtailing the arms race and a tool of arms control. It’s clear that we have new weapons systems that the American side lacks, at least for the time being. But we aren’t refusing to discuss this aspect of the matter as well,” Vladimir Putin told Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov.
Putin instructed Russia’s Foreign Ministry to communicate the Kremlin’s new position to Washington in the hopes of receiving “at least some comprehensible reply from them as soon as possible.”
On October 13, U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea told the Heritage Foundation that he met recently with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov in Finland and nearly reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with Moscow to limit the number of deployed strategic warheads by Russia and America. Ryabkov promptly denied that an agreement is imminent, however, and warned that Moscow won’t rush a deal simply because Trump administration officials are in a hurry to show results before the U.S. presidential election concludes on November 3.
Update: U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has rejected President Putin’s offer, explaining that any extension of the New START without freezing nuclear warheads is a “non-starter.” “The United States proposed an extension of New START for one year, in exchange for Russia and the United States capping all nuclear warheads during that period. This would have been a win for both sides,” O’Brien said on Friday through the U.S. National Security Council’s Twitter account.
According to The New York Times, Joe Biden supports extending the New START Treaty for another five years without broadening the arms limitations to include China and other preconditions, as the Trump administration has insisted.
Under the New START Treaty, Russia and the U.S. are each limited to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads — roughly two-thirds fewer weapons than allowed under the original START treaty (signed in 1991) and 10 percent fewer deployed warheads than permitted under the 2002 Moscow Treaty.