Russia Says Time Running Out For Talks With U.S. Over New START Treaty
September 22, 2020 12:49 GMT UPDATED September 23, 2020 05:12 GMT By RFE/RL
Russian officials say they haven’t given the United States any new deadlines in talks over the New START treaty, the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms pact, but that there can’t be any pause in discussions as time is running out.
The United States has said it wants any new nuclear arms control treaty to cover all types of warheads, contain stronger verification and transparency measures, and bring China on board, a move Beijing has rejected.
“The issue of primary importance that should and must be promptly dealt with is, of course, the extension of the Russia-U.S. Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which will expire shortly, in February 2021,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the 75th UN General Assembly on September 22. “We are engaged in negotiations with our U.S. partners on the matter.”
Putin added that Moscow “also expect[s] that mutual restraint would be exercised with regard to deploying new missile systems.”
“I would like to add that as early as last year, Russia declared a moratorium on deploying ground-launched medium- and short-range missiles in Europe and other regions as long as the United States of America refrains from such actions,” Putin said. “Unfortunately, we have not received any reaction to our proposal from either our U.S. partners or their allies.”
Several rounds of talks between the two countries over the summer took place with no breakthrough on a possible extension of the START treaty.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier on September 22 that Moscow sees the chances of extending the treaty as minimal given the conditions being laid out by Washington.
Ryabkov called the U.S. preconditions “too far-fetched and devoid of appealing elements.”
Ryabkov spoke after Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control, told the Kommersant newspaper that Moscow must accept a joint agreement with Washington on extending the treaty before the U.S. presidential election in November.
“I suspect that after President [Donald] Trump wins reelection, if Russia has not taken up our offer, that the price of admission, as we would say in the United States, goes up,” Billingslea said.
Ryabkov said that position constituted an ultimatum and lowered the chances of reaching any kind of agreement to extend the treaty.
Russia has said it is ready to extend the New START without preconditions and warned there is not enough time to renegotiate a complicated new treaty.
New START, which caps the number of deployed long-range nuclear warheads each country can have, expires in February unless the two sides agree to extend it for five years.
In his UN speech, Putin announced a plan to propose a “binding agreement” to ban space-based weapons.
“Russia is putting forward an initiative to sign a binding agreement between all the leading space powers that would provide for the prohibition of the placement of weapons in outer space, threat or use of force against outer space objects,” Putin said.
U.S. and Russian officials held talks in July on space security after the United States and Britain accused Moscow of having launched an anti-satellite weapon.
A one-day dialogue in Vienna on July 27 was said to have focused on space security and been planned months in advance.
U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford said before that gathering that “Moscow and Beijing have already turned space into a war-fighting domain.”
The United States has said it proposed rules for responsible behavior in space that would be modeled on existing rules of war that are based on the principles of proportionality and humanity.
“Our hope is that this meeting will allow us to explore ways to increase security and stability in outer space as well as to advance the cause of developing norms of responsible behavior,” Ford said.