Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to extend a key nuclear treaty with the United States immediately without preconditions, he said Thursday.

“Russia is ready to extend the New START treaty immediately, before the year’s end and without any preconditions,” Putin said at a meeting of military officials, according to The Associated Press.

“Our proposals have been on the table, but we have got no response from our partners,” Putin added.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), negotiated by the Obama administration, caps the number of nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can deploy. It is the last major treaty constraining the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals following the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) earlier this year.

New START is up for renewal in 2021, and it can be extended by mutual agreement without any further action.

The Trump administration has indicated it wants to expand the scope of the treaty as a condition of extension by taking steps such as folding in China and new weapons not currently covered by the agreement.

While in London for a NATO summit this week, President Trump was upbeat about the prospect of expanding the treaty.

“With respect to nuclear weapons, I’ve spoken to President Putin and I’ve communicated with him,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. “And we are — he very much wants to, and so do we, work out a treaty of some kind on nuclear weapons that will probably then include China at some point, and [France], by the way.  But it will include China and some other countries.”

“I spoke to China about it,” Trump added. “During one of our trade negotiations, they were extremely excited about getting involved in that. So, some very good things can happen with respect to that.”

China, though, has repeatedly rejected the idea of joining the treaty talks.

Critics have accused the administration of using China as a poison pill to kill New START. If the administration wants a broader arms control treaty, they argue, it can extend New START to buy time for negotiations that could take years.

Asked Thursday by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) why the treaty can’t be extended to provide more time to negotiate with China, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood indicated the administration believes that will cede leverage.

“If the United States were to agree to extend the treaty now, I think it would make it less likely that we would have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a broader agreement,” Rood said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“China has not participated in these similar arms control agreements, as you know, in the past. We do retain time until February 2021. To state the obvious, today it’s 2019. And so there wouldn’t need to be a lot of negotiation required if there was a decision by the United States and Russia to extend the treaty just merely agreeing on the time period.”

Tags Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron Jeanne Shaheen Vladimir Putin

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