The last U.S.-Russia strategic nuclear arms control pact appeared on track to win a one-year extension, as Washington on Tuesday welcomed a proposal by Moscow for such an extension if both sides freeze all nuclear warhead deployments for that period and the agreement is verifiable.
The apparent breakthrough, coming after months of difficult talks appeared to narrow the gap between the sides over the fate of the 2010 New START agreement, which is due to expire in February.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Russia proposes to extend the New START treaty for one year and is ready together with the United States to make a commitment “to freeze the existing arsenals of nuclear warheads” held by both parties during this period.
However the Russian proposal can only be implemented if the United States “will not advance any additional conditions with regard to freezing the arsenals,” the statement said.
During the extension period both parties can “hold comprehensive bilateral talks on the future of nuclear missile control, with the mandatory discussion of all factors that can influence strategic stability,” the statement said.
The demise of the treaty would lift all remaining restraints on deployments of strategic nuclear warheads and the missiles and bombers that carry them, making possible an arms race between the world’s largest nuclear weapons powers.
But a statement published by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday suggested that the two countries’ positions had moved closer.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus welcomed the Russian offer and said in a statement that the United States appreciated “willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control.”
“The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same,” Ortagus said.
Her statement highlighted a question the sides would have to resolve to pave the way to a one-year New START extension: how they would verify that the other was adhering to the warhead deployment freeze.
The treaty can be extended for up to five years beyond its Feb. 5 expiration with the agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday at a Russian security conference that the country’s Foreign Ministry submitted a proposal to the United States presenting their “comprehensive approach to strategic stability.”
The U.S. proposal sent in response contained “preconditions for the extension of the New START,” that “have been formulated both outside the Treaty itself and outside our frame of reference,” Lavrov said at the conference attended also by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin proposed at that conference to “extend the Treaty now in effect unconditionally for at least a year in order to have a chance to hold substantive talks on all the parameters of problems that are regulated by treaties of this kind.”
“It is clear that we have new weapons systems that the American side lacks, at least for the time being. But we are not refusing to discuss this aspect of the matter as well,” Putin said.
Putin endorsed in June changes to Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, which allows the country to use atomic weapons, not only in response to a nuclear attack but also to respond to conventional strikes targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.
Challenges Ahead of US-Russia Negotiations
The New START treaty constrains more than 90 percent of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, less than half of Russia’s, and none of China’s, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea said on Oct. 14 at an event held by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
Russia and the United States together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s total nuclear warheads in 2020, <a href="https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/sta<a href=https://www.theepochtimes.com/russia-us-appear-closer-on-deal-to-extend-nuclear-pact_3546072.html>Read More – Source</a></p>_