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US, Russia remain at odds over extension of New START Treaty

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov at a news conference in Moscow on August 5, 2019. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States and Russia have concluded a third round of arms-control talks still at odds over several key issues, but the two sides showed a willingness to possibly extend the New START Treaty before it expires next year.

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. It is their last remaining bilateral nuclear-arms-control agreement.

The United States has urged China to join the negotiations — a proposal rejected by Beijing. Moscow believes that if China is to join, then Britain and France should also be engaged in an even wider process.

“There are some areas of convergence between Russia and the United States but we do remain far apart on a number of key issues,” U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea told reporters on August 18 following two days of talks in Vienna.

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“We are willing to contemplate an extension of New START but such an extension will only occur if we can…address significant concerns we have with the Russian build-up of its unconstrained capabilities,” Billingslea said.

The United States wants any new nuclear-arms-control treaty to cover all types of warheads, stronger verification and transparency measures, and bring China on board.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the arms-control talks for Moscow, said the two countries’ “priorities at this stage differ significantly.”

“Russia stands for an extension of the New START Treaty, but is not ready to pay any price for that,” Ryabkov said, in comments shared by the Russian mission in Vienna.

Russia has said it is ready to extend the New Start treaty without preconditions and warned there is not enough time to renegotiate a complicated new treaty.

The first two rounds of talks between the two countries took place in June and July with no breakthrough on a possible extension of the treaty.