The fate of the last nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia remains uncertain. The New START will expire in February, and the Trump administration has failed to reach an agreement with Russia to renew the vital treaty.
On Thursday, Putin blamed the US for the faltering talks. “We are ready to continue the dialogue with the US, but for that our partners need to respond.” he wrote on Twitter.
Marshall Billingslea, President Trump’s envoy for arms control, responded to Putin on Twitter, blaming the Russians for failing to continue negotiations. “We already responded, repeatedly. 5 times we offered, incl. in writing, to meet to finalize the freeze/extension deal to which Putin agreed,” Billingslea said.
In October, Russia agreed to extend the treaty for one year in exchange for a mutual freeze on each country’s nuclear warhead arsenals. The freeze on warheads was a US demand that Moscow agreed to as long as there were no other preconditions. Moscow reportedly broke with the US after Washington demanded stricter verification measures.
Billingslea opened the New START negotiations making unreasonable demands right out of the gate, even asking Russia to guarantee China’s involvement in a new treaty. Throughout the process, Russia repeatedly offered to extend the New START for five years with no preconditions, as the treaty allows.
On Wednesday, the Russian news agency Tass quoted Russia’s ambassador to the US, who said the original offer was still on the table. In December 2019, Russia offered the US to extend the agreement for five years without preconditions,” Anatoly Antonov said. “This proposal is still in effect.”
Joe Biden is in favor of extending New START and will have to work fast, as inauguration day is January 20th and the treaty expires on February 5th. A source close to Biden told CNN that if an agreement on New START is not reached by inauguration day, Biden would “work hard, intensively, immediately to try to extend it.”
The New START limits the number of missiles, bombers, and nuclear warheads each signatory can have deployed. If the treaty expires, there will be no constraints on the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the US, and it could be the start of a new nuclear arms race.