Russia says US shows no readiness to extend key nuclear pact

Henry Meyer

Russia said it’s received no indications the U.S. is ready to roll over the landmark nuclear-reduction treaty New START, which limits their strategic arsenals, before it expires in February.

“We still have not received any signals from Washington that could indicate a willingness to extend New START after it expires,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday at an online round-table hosted by the Valdai discussion club. “We believe this agreement is necessary not only for the countries which signed it but as a safeguard of strategic stability.”

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has so far rebuffed Russian calls to begin talks on extending the agreement, reiterating that any new accord should include China, which has so far refused to accept limits on its smaller nuclear capability.

The 10-year treaty, the last one capping the nuclear forces of the former Cold War foes, has an option to renew for a further five years with the agreement of both parties.

Russia is willing to negotiate a new arms control accord but this will take time, which extending New START would provide, said Ryabkov.

Fears have been growing of a renewed arms race since the U.S. last year pulled out of a 1987 treaty which banned the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe, citing violations denied by Russia.

With a second strategic arms pact due to expire within a matter of months, this risks destroying decades of arms control efforts.

Under New START, which followed from the 1991 START treaty and was signed in 2010, the Russian and U.S. arsenals are restricted to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on no more than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers. Each side can inspect the other’s arsenals 18 times a year.