A tight circle of people in the administration of US President Donald Trump is engaged in talks to close a nuclear accord with Russia before the 3 November presidential election, the Axios news portal reported on Monday, citing an administration official.
According to Axios, citing a Trump administration source, talks have been ongoing within a tight circle of people at the highest levels in the US National Security Council and the Department of State with briefings provided to a few members of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and a national security working group in the Congress.
The New START extension has been endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and former US vice president Joe Biden, who is Trump’s contender in the election. Trump, in turn, has sought to draft a new deal that would involve not only Russia but also China, the owner of the world’s third largest nuclear stockpile.
The US administration now tries to craft a deal in a language that both Moscow and Beijing could live with, Axios said, citing a knowledgeable source.
Last week, media reported, citing sources, that the United States and Russia had reached an agreement in principle to continue curbing their nuclear arsenals, which would potentially lead to an extension of their only remaining arms control agreement, the New START, during October. Commenting on the matter to Sputnik, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denied that the sides had overcome the differences in their stances to the point anyhow signaling a soon agreement.
China has repeatedly stressed its opposition to considering any trilateral nuclear arms control pacts with Russia and the US.
After the US unilaterally withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces with Russia last year, the New START remained the only remaining legally binding agreement on nuclear arms control between the two countries owning the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles. The treaty has been in force since 2011 and is due to expire in February 2021 with a possibility to be renewed for another five years.
The New START limits the number of nuclear warheads over permitted 700 delivery systems to 1,500, with each heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armaments counting as one warhead toward this limit, and the number of deployed and non-deployed launchers to 800. It also provides for 18 on-site inspections annually for mutual oversight purposes.