The last nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia is set to expire in February 2021, and talks between the two powers are not going well. Russia has offered to extend New START for five years with no preconditions, as the treaty allows, but the Trump administration is demanding concessions from Moscow.
Trump administration sources told The Washington Post that they were frustrated the Russians have not responded to a proposal submitted by US negotiators two weeks ago. Under the deal, the New START would be extended for a limited time, not the full five years, while the US and Russia negotiate a replacement treaty.
According to the Post, the proposal also said President Trump and Russian President Vladimir would sign a political agreement outlining a framework for the replacement treaty and what it would cover. The new framework the US is asking for is likely the reason Russia has not responded to it.
Officials told the Post that the proposal submitted by President Trump’s envoy for arms control talks, Marshall Billingslea, would encompass all of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, and increase verification by including more inspections. The proposal was drafted as a political agreement that would turn into a treaty once China joins, which is likely never going to happen.
Since the start of the talks, the US has insisted China be involved. But Beijing has no interest, as the size of the Asian country’s nuclear arsenal is vastly smaller than the US and Russia’s. Last week, Billingslea said that the US is seeking a commitment from Russia that China will be part of the next arms control treaty, but Moscow has no interest in trying to leverage Beijing.
“We have not taken and do not intend to take any steps to bring China into these talks, something we have told our American colleagues on multiple occasions,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview this week.
Along with Billingslea’s demands come threats. “I suspect that after President Trump wins re-election if Russia has not taken up our offer, that the price of admission, as we would say in the US, goes up,” the negotiator told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.