Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that he doubts the US and Russia will reach an agreement to extend the last nuclear arms control treaty between the two powers, citing US demands. The New START limits the number of warheads each country can have deployed and is set to expire in February 2021.
“I personally don’t see the prospect,” Lavrov said when asked about the possibility of renewing the vital treaty before it expires. “We will never say that we will shut the door and cut all contacts. But we explain that it’s impossible to talk on the basis of an ultimatum they put forward that fully ignores the principles which were acknowledged as the basis for all our agreements for decades.”
Russia has offered to extend the New START with no preconditions for five years, as the treaty allows. But the US is demanding more, and President Trump’s Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea has threatened that the price to renew the treaty “will go up” for Moscow if a deal is not reached by the presidential election.
Lavrov’s counterpart in Washington took a different tone in comments on the New START on Wednesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would welcome the opportunity to complete an agreement with Russia based on “understandings that were achieved over the last couple of weeks” during negotiations.
Wednesday was the second day in a row that comments from US and Russian officials over the New START were at odds with each other. On Tuesday, Billingslea said the US and Russia reached an “agreement in principle” to temporarily extend the treaty, but this was quickly rejected by Russia.
Moscow’s top arms control negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian media in response to Billingslea’s comments that Washington’s proposal to renew the vital arms control treaty is “unacceptable.”
Bloomberg confirmed more of Ryabkov’s comments on Wednesday. “If the Americans need to report to their superiors that they allegedly reached agreement with Russia before their elections, they won’t get it,” Ryabkov said.