The U.S. and Russia are nearing a short-term extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, their last remaining nuclear nonproliferation agreement, which is due to expire in February, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday put forward an offer to extend the treaty, commonly known as New START. which limits each country to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and includes site inspections to verify compliance. But Robert O’Brien, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, quickly rejected the proposal, calling it insufficient.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a statement clarifying Moscow’s offer, in which he appeared to answer O’Brien’s main demand, by saying that Putin envisioned a one-year extension as well as a freezing of nuclear warheads by each side.
“This position of ours may be implemented only and exclusively on the premise that ‘feezing’ of warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands on the part of the United States,” Lavrov said. “Were this approach to be acceptable for Washington, then the time gained by the extension of the New START Treaty could be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future nuclear and missile arms control that must address all factors affecting strategic stability.”
At a news conference on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said that an agreement was close at hand.
“We are encouraged that we are very close to coming to an agreement that the U.S. has offered to the Russian counterparts that would have a two-way street,” Hutchison said, “that we would agree to a freeze on nuclear warheads for one year, and Russia would agree also with us on a one-year extension of New START that is verifiable and that we can assure will freeze where we are and then start the negotiation on a long-term, new New START.”
Lavrov, in his statement, said Moscow was awaiting an official response from Washington.
US and Russia poised to extend New START arms treaty The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.