Pompeo: Russia complying with nuclear treaty that’s up for renewal

Stefani Reynolds

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Russia is largely in compliance with the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, but indicated the Trump administration is looking at expanding the scope of the pact as renewal talks begin.

“There are some arguments on the edges each, but largely they have been compliant,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Both the Russians and the United States have been compliant. We’re at the very beginning of conversations about renewing that. If we can get the deal right, if we can make sure it fits 2021 and beyond, President Trump has made very clear that if we can get a good solid arms control agreement, we ought to get one.”

{mosads}The New START Treaty caps the number of nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can deploy at 1,550 each. There are also limits on the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear warheads, as well as the number of deployed and nondeployed launchers.

The Obama-era treaty expires in 2021, but there is an option to extend it another five years.

Arms control advocates are worried Trump will let New START expire after he withdrew from a separate arms control treaty with Russia. Advocates warn that for the first time in decades the two biggest nuclear powers might not have limits on their nuclear arsenals.

The other treaty, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, banned the United States and Russia from having nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

Trump announced in February he was starting the six-month process to withdraw from the INF Treaty after years of Russian violations.

Current and former officials broadly agree Russia is in violation of the INF agreement, but there have been no similar accusations regarding New START.

Still, in 2017, Trump called New START a “one-sided deal” that was “just another bad deal” made by former President Obama.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Republicans touted the benefits of New START.

“The thing I liked about the START Treaty, and the reason I spoke for it and worked with [former Secretary of State John] Kerry to get the votes to pass it was because it had a unique identifier system, which we never had available before with the Russians, where we could more accurately count their weapons,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said. “Second, we had the no-notice inspection provisions.”

In February, the general in charge of the U.S. nuclear arsenal told senators he remains a “big supporter” of New START. But Gen. John Hyten also expressed concern Russia is developing weapons outside the scope of the treaty, such as hypersonic missiles and submarine drones.

Pompeo indicated in his testimony he has similar concerns. Asked what will make the treaty “fit in 2021 and beyond,” Pompeo said, “Technology has moved.”

He also suggested the Trump administration wants to include China in the treaty. China is estimated to have only about 280 nuclear warheads, far fewer than the 1,550 cap imposed by the treaty.

“We need to make sure we’ve got all of the parties that are relevant as a component of this as well,” Pompeo said. “Other countries besides Russia and China. It may be that we can’t get there. It may be that we end up working with the Russians on this. But if we’re talking about a nuclear capacity, nuclear capability that presents risk to the United States, it’s very different today in the world than it was.”

Tags Donald Trump Johnny Isakson Mike Pompeo
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