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Russia says US not willing to meet halfway to extend nuclear arms treaty

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

Russia says the United States is refusing to meet halfway to extend the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms agreement between the two countries, the New START treaty.

"We are willing to extend the treaty for a year… and we are ready to freeze our nuclear warhead stockpile. However, we are unwilling and will not fulfill the United States’ additional demands. They (the Americans) haven’t withdrawn these demands, unfortunately, so we cannot make an agreement on this basis," Tass quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Friday.

Russia and the US are engaged in negotiations on extending the New START, which puts a limit on the number of the strategic nuclear warheads each of the countries can have.

The US had conditioned the extension of the New START on a mutual freeze on the nuclear warheads of the two countries. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that Moscow would be ready to enforce a freeze on the number of its nuclear warheads if Washington did the same and agreed to have the treaty extended by one year.

The ministry also underlined that the extension would give the two sides time to discuss nuclear arms control in greater depth.

Ryabkov stressed that Moscow was not ready to unilaterally freeze its stockpile of nuclear warheads.

"They (the Americans) are announcing huge programs aimed at advancing their nuclear capabilities and in such a situation, we can’t do such a thing," he added.

'It's not going to happen'

He criticized the US for rejecting to compromise.

"For some reason, they believe that it is us that will have to make steps to meet them halfway, but it’s not going to happen," the Russian official said.

Ryabkov stressed that Washington was clearly not willing to extend the treaty despite all of the bold statements of the American officials.

"We are ready to make agreements [on extending the New START], provided that the Americans don’t advance their add-ons and impose things on us," he explained.

He said there was no basis for a face-to-face meeting between pertinent officials from Russia and the US. "There is no subject for such a meeting at the moment," he said. But he expressed his readiness to formalize an agreement with Washington "if Washington accepts the scheme that the Russian Foreign Ministry put forward in a statement on October 20 and refrains from changing it in its favor."

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

The New START can be extended for another five years, beyond its expiry date in February 2021, by mutual agreement.

If the pact fails to be extended, the main pillar maintaining the balance of nuclear arms between the US and Russia will be removed.

Last year, the White House pulled out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. The landmark treaty had banned all land-based missiles with the range of up to 5,500 kilometers.

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