The United States announced on Tuesday that it had reached a “preliminary agreement” with Russia regarding the extension of the “New START” treaty to reduce the nuclear weapons arsenal, which expires in February 2021, which was denied by Moscow.
“We actually want to extend the New START treaty for a certain period, provided they agree in return to reduce their nuclear arsenal,” said US negotiator Marshall Billingsley.
“We believe there is a preliminary agreement at the highest level between our two governments,” Billingsley said.
The US negotiator cut short his visit to Asia last week, to give final approval to the initial agreement to begin working out the details.
Billingsley said, “We are ready to conclude this agreement, in fact we can do it tomorrow but Moscow has to show political will to do the same.”
He explained that the United States is still insisting on the participation of China, whose nuclear program is witnessing steady growth, but it is still far too small to be compared to the Russian and American arsenals.
He added that all matters that we agree on with the Russians must be framed and prepared to allow the expansion of this agreement to include the Chinese whenever they sit at the negotiating table.
The Russian response was not too late, as a senior Russian official was quick to announce his country’s rejection of the condition set by the United States for extending this agreement and freezing the Russian and American nuclear arsenals.
“It is an unacceptable proposal,” Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said – according to what was reported by Russian news agencies.
“If the Americans agree to the documents that we handed over to them, then we can reach an agreement tomorrow,” he added.
“But with so many differences, I cannot imagine on what basis our colleagues in Washington put forth such theories.”
Last June, Russian-American talks on arms control began in Vienna.
The current “New START” treaty imposes the last remaining restrictions on the US and Russia’s deployment of strategic nuclear weapons. It stipulates that neither country will deploy more than 1,550 weapons and 700 strategic bombers. The treaty can be extended for 5 years if both parties agree.
Russia and the United States together still possess more than 90% of the nuclear weapons in the world, according to a recent report issued by the International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm.
According to the same source, the United States has about 5,800 nuclear warheads, while Russia has 6,375 nuclear warheads, compared to 320 for China, 290 for France, and 215 for Britain.