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Putin proposes extension of New START Treaty for one year without conditions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed extending a bilateral nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States for one year without preconditions to keep it from expiring early next year and allow talks to revive it to continue.

Putin also instructed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a meeting with permanent members of Russia’s Security Council on October 16 to work out Russia’s position on the accord, the New START arms control treaty, and inform the United States of developments.

“In this regard, I propose…extending the current treaty without any conditions for at least a year so that meaningful negotiations can be conducted on all the parameters of the problems…” Putin said, adding it would be “extremely sad” if the treaty expired.

Putin’s proposal comes just two days after Lavrov said that Moscow doesn’t see any prospects for extending the treaty with the United States, stressing however that Moscow plans to carry on with negotiations on the subject.

The 2010 treaty limits strategic nuclear weapons and is due to expire in February, although it can be extended for five years, which Moscow has said it is ready to do without preconditions.

The White House, which has already withdrawn from other arms-control treaties because it accused Moscow of violations and felt the agreements benefited Russia more than the United States, has called for Beijing to join Moscow and Washington to find a replacement for New START.

The Chinese government has balked at the prospect of participating in the treaty.

Earlier this month Russia and the United States held an 11th-hour round of talks on the treaty in Helsinki with Washington saying it was willing to extend the New START treaty for some period of time provided the Russians agreed to a freeze on their nuclear arsenal, a proposal the Kremlin quickly rejected.

The issue of the New START treaty comes as the United States prepares for a presidential election on November 3.

Joe Biden, who leads Trump in all major polls, supports extending New START “to use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements.” If Biden wins, the treaty will expire just weeks after he is inaugurated.

Biden calls the treaty — which was negotiated when he was vice president under President Barack Obama — an “anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia.”

Trump’s administration wants any new nuclear arms-control treaty to cover all types of warheads, stronger verification, and transparency measures, as well as bringing China, which has a fraction of the nuclear weapons as Russia and the United States, on board.

Russia has warned that there is not enough time to renegotiate a complicated new treaty.

On October 13, more than 75 lawmakers across Europe called on the United States to extend New START before its expiration.

The Trump administration has already left the landmark Cold War-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Russia of violating it. Washington also unilaterally exited the Open Skies, a treaty that permits the United States and Russia to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory.