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US, Russian officials hold arms-control talks in Finland

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.

Negotiators from Russia and the United States have met in the Finnish capital for a new round of arms-control talks as the two powers’ last remaining bilateral nuclear arms pact is due to expire early next year.

The October 5 meeting in Helsinki was led by Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

“The sides exchanged views on the current state and further prospects for bilateral cooperation in the area of arms control,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. It did not provide further details.

The two nuclear heavyweights are discussing the future of the New START treaty, which expires in February unless the two sides agree to extend it for five years.

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Several rounds of talks took place over the summer with no breakthrough on a possible extension.

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

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

“In the current world situation, all dialogue is important, and I welcome its continuation between the United States and Russia,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who held separate meetings with Billingslea and Ryabkov after their talks.

Russia and the United States jointly possess about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The think tank estimated that the United States had 5,800 warheads, while Russia had about 6,375 at the beginning of the year.