US and Russia close to agreement on Nuclear Weapons Treaty
At the end of a term that has seen the United States withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and the World Health Organization, the Trump administration is about to finalize a deal that would extend an Obama-era treaty on nuclear weapons, Foreign Policy writes in the article U.S. and Russia Close to Agreement on Nuclear Weapons Treaty.
After a summer of halting negotiations to extend New START, a U.S.-Russian treaty limiting each country’s nuclear arsenals that is due to expire in February, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday appeared to signal a resolution was imminent. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. On the table is a one-year extension to the nuclear treaty and a freeze on the number of nuclear warheads, which should provide breathing room for a longer-term solution, and perhaps give time to entice China to join any future agreement.
As Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer report, the agreement still has some ground to cover before it can be finalized. One issue is the process of verification: The United States wants tougher measures taken to ensure Russia is in compliance, whereas Russia wants to keep verification procedures as they currently are.
Not standing still
While the change in positions should be seen as a breakthrough, it doesn’t mean all is rosy in the world of U.S.-Russia arms control. On Tuesday, CNN reported that Russia appears to be resuming testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a weapon not covered by New START. Just this week, the U.S. Department of Defense put the price tag on replacing its Minuteman land-based nuclear missiles at just short of $100 billion. The next steps in nuclear competition between the two countries may be decided by the U.S. presidential election: The Trump administration has made modernizing the country’s nuclear arsenal a pillar of its defense strategy. Biden says he will scale back U.S. nuclear ambitions if elected.
The Kremlin hopes to continue discussing new START with the United States and overcome contradictions through dialogue, press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov said. "With regard to the topic of arms control, this topic is of a strategic nature and global significance. It is not only in the interests of our two countries, it is in the interests of security and stability of the whole world. We hope to continue the dialogue," Peskov told reporters. "At the expert level, work continues. And we still hope that this conversation will continue with the Americans, we hope that all misunderstandings will be overcome as a result of the dialogue."