President Trump’s envoy for arms control said the US and Russia agreed to start nuclear arms control talks this month. “Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June. China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” Marshall Billingslea said on Twitter on Monday. An anonymous US official said the negotiations will start on June 22nd.
The last arms control treaty between the US and Russia, the New START, is set to expire in February 2021. Russia has offered to extend the treaty, but the US insists on including China in the deal. The New START limits the number of nuclear warheads the signatories can have deployed, but China’s nuclear arsenal is much smaller than the US and Russia’s so it is unlikely that China will agree to enter the deal. If the treaty collapses, the US will no longer be able to inspect Russia’s nuclear forces.
China has repeatedly said they do not want to take part in trilateral arms control discussions. Last month, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said the US and Russia “possess the largest nuclear arsenals” and should have a responsibility to reduce them. Current estimates put Beijing’s arsenal at 320 warheads, the US has 3,800 warheads in its stockpile, and Russia has 4,310. The New START caps the number of warheads deployed at 1,550.
If the US lets the New START lapse, it will follow a pattern of the Trump administration withdrawing from arms control agreements. Last year, the administration withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prevented the development of medium-range nuclear and ballistic missiles. Most recently, the administration announced its intended withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement that allows surveillance flights over the US and Russia.
In the face of crumbling treaties, Washington’s NATO allies are advocating for negotiations and arms control with Russia. “A new armed race will be dangerous and costly, and we’ve continued to work hard for arms control with Russia,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.