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Russia ready to freeze nuclear warheads in exchange for New START extension

Russia ready to freeze nuclear warheads in exchange for New START extension
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Russia said Tuesday it would be open to a mutual nuclear warhead freeze with the United States in exchange for extending the last nuclear treaty between Moscow and Washington for a year.

The offer, made in a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, injects new life into talks that days ago appeared dead after both sides rejected the other’s latest offer.

“Russia has proposed extending the New START for one year and is ready to assume a political obligation together with the United States to freeze the sides’ existing arsenals of nuclear warheads during this period,” the Foreign Ministry said in its statement, adding the offer would only be possible if the United States does not make additional demands.

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The yearlong extension of New START, Russia said, “could be used to hold comprehensive bilateral talks on the future of nuclear missile control, with the mandatory discussion of all factors that can influence strategic stability.”

Clinching a nuclear agreement, while not as extensive as what he first sought, would give President TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Ivanka Trump doubles down on vaccine push with post celebrating second shot Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE a foreign policy win to tout in the closing days of the presidential election in which he is trailing Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Argentina launches 'Green Mondays' campaign to cut greenhouse gases On The Money: Federal judge vacates CDC's eviction moratorium | Biden says he's open to compromise on corporate tax rate | Treasury unsure of how long it can stave off default without debt limit hike MORE in national polls and key battleground states.

Still, a Trump administration official told The Wall Street Journal the two sides must still agree on verification measures for the warhead freeze and what the definition of a warhead is.

The State Department said Tuesday it "appreciate[s] the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control."

"The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement," department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. "We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same."

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New START caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can have at 1,550 a piece, as well as places limits on the weapons that can fire the warheads and creates a verification regime.

The treaty expires in February, though it includes an option to extend it up to five more years without needing new approval from the U.S. Senate.

The Trump administration wants to replace New START with a treaty that covers China’s weapons, as well as Russia’s so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons.

The Russian offer comes about a week after its negotiator in the arms control talks called the U.S. proposal to extend New START for a year in exchange for a warhead freeze “unacceptable,” denying the U.S. envoy’s claim that the two sides had reached a “gentleman’s agreement.”

“The U.S. position in favor of freezing has long been known to us, it is unacceptable to us,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week. “Not because we are against freezing, but because we need to deal with the problems of strategic stability as a whole.”

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On Friday, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussia keeping 80K troops at border amid NATO exercise, US officials say The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal Pranksters trick Canadian lawmakers with fake Navalny aide: report MORE publicly offered to extend New START for at least one year without any other conditions, but the Trump administration quickly rejected the offer in a statement from national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

In Tuesday’s statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow has not received an official response to Putin’s offer, only comments on social media, so thought it was “necessary to clarify the matter.”

Updated at 9:56 a.m.