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Russia ready to extend New START treaty by year-end: Putin

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Sochi on December 4, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is ready to “immediately” extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty “without any preconditions” by the end of the year.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty accord, which expires in February 2021, is the last major nuclear arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington that puts a limit on the number of strategic nuclear warheads each of the countries can have.

"All of our proposals to extend the deal are on the table," Putin was quoted as saying by Russia's Sputnik news agency on Thursday.

"So far, we have not received any reaction from partners. In this regard, I want to reiterate Russia's position: Russia is ready to immediately, as soon as possible, right before the end of this year, without any preconditions, to extend the New START treaty," Putin added.

The US and Russia signed the accord in 2010 and agreed to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missiles by half and restrict the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550.

A senior Pentagon official said on Thursday that Washington had enough time to negotiate the extension of the New START treaty.

"It expires… in February of 2021, so we do have some time until that time and, in accordance with the terms of the treaty, it may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties. No need to renegotiate the portions of the treaty," said John Rood, the US undersecretary of defense for policy.

Rood told the US Senate Committee on Armed Services that there would not need to be a "lot of negotiations" required if the two sides merely agreed to extend the time period.

"If the US were to agree to extend the treaty now, I think, it would make it less likely that we would have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a broader agreement," he added.

China is not part of the existing deal, but Rood reiterated that US President Donald Trump was after a deal that would include both Moscow and Beijing.

Russia tests torpedo weapons in White Sea

On Thursday, the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet announced that the country's multirole nuclear-powered submarine Kazan had test-fired torpedo weapons from its submerged position in the White Sea.

"The crew of the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan made a salvo of two torpedoes from its submerged position against an underwater target. According to a preliminary estimate, the torpedo test-fire passed successfully," the fleet’s press office said, adding that the test-fire was held as part of the sub’s sea trials.

"The submarine will soon perform several more episodes of its trials in the White Sea, including the tests of its armament," the press office said.

The Kazan is the first Russian multirole nuclear-powered submarine that was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk in the north of Russia in 2009 and floated out in March 2017.

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