Russia: U.S. seeks to widen nuclear arms deal

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The United States wants to broaden its main nuclear arms control agreement with Russia to include all their atomic weapons, a U.S. envoy said in June 2020 after talks with Moscow on a new accord.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea also said Washington would keep pressing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to join the talks on replacing the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which expires in February 2021.

The two former Cold War rivals agreed to set up technical working groups and hold further talks, Billingslea said.

Washington wants Beijing involved because it says the PRC is racing to increase the size and reach of its nuclear arsenal, but Moscow favors a multilateral accord, possibly including France and Britain, Billingslea said.

“We, the United States, intend and believe … that the next arms control agreement must cover all nuclear weapons, not just so-called strategic nuclear weapons,” he told a news conference in Vienna, Austria, that followed the talks there. (Pictured: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov arrives for a meeting with U.S. special envoy Marshall Billingslea in Vienna, Austria, on June 22, 2020.)

New START caps the countries’ deployed strategic nuclear weapons warheads at 1,550 each, far fewer than the thousands of atomic weapons they possess.

In 2019, Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, with senior officials saying Moscow had deployed “multiple battalions” of a cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact and that some had “the ability to strike critical European targets.”

Russia denied that, saying the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty. A more comprehensive agreement would be intended to overcome such disputes and avoid further erosion of the global arms control architecture.

The PRC, with a nuclear arsenal a fraction the size of those of the U.S. or Russia, has rejected U.S. attempts to involve it in the negotiations.

Billingslea posted a picture of Chinese flags at empty seats around the negotiating table before talks began, a move Beijing dismissed as an act of “performance art.”

Russia said the PRC joining was unrealistic.  Reuters

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