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Russia rejects conditional US offer to extend New START

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)
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (photo by TASS)

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected as “unacceptable” a proposal by the United States to condition the extension of the New START arms control treaty on the freezing of Russian and US nuclear weapons at the current levels.

“This is an unacceptable proposal,” Ryabkov said, according to a Wednesday report by Russia’s state news agency TASS.

He was speaking in response to claims by US special envoy for arms control Marshall Billingslea that there had been “an agreement in principle” between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on such a deal.

Speaking on Tuesday, Billingslea had said, “We believe that there is an agreement in principle at the highest levels of our two governments. That’s why I cut short my trip to Asia and made a beeline for Helsinki when the Russians called and wanted to sit down.”

He then added that Washington’s condition for extending the New START treaty — which limits the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side and is due to expire next February — would be a verified freeze on the complete arsenals of both countries, including non-strategic (short-range or “tactical”) warheads.

The assertions by the US arms negotiator were, however, swiftly rejected by Moscow, with the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissing Billingslea’s claims as a “delusion” and a “fraud.”

Ryabkov further said that Moscow would not be willing to approve a New START treaty extension prior to the upcoming US presidential election on November 3.

“If the Americans need to report to their superiors something about which they allegedly agreed with the Russian Federation before their election, then they will not get it,” Ryabkov said.

Trump had maligned the treaty early in his presidency as “one of several bad deals negotiated by the [former President Barack] Obama administration.”

The Trump administration is in dire need of a foreign policy achievement ahead of the November election. It has unilaterally withdrawn from a number of international agreements, including with Russia, and signed none.

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