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During the talks in Vienna, US officials said “the ball is in Russia’s court” as the two countries struggle to negotiate the new terms for replacing the New START treaty that is set to expire in February 2021. The bilateral treaty between Russia and the US was signed in April 2010 and calls for halving the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers in both countries.
It also set the limit of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 for both countries as the US and Russia currently hold 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Marshall Billingslea, US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, said there were “some areas of convergence between Russia and the United States, but we do remain far apart on a number of key issues”.
One of these key issues is introducing new participants to the treaty, with the US insisting on extending the invitation to China while Russia “in its turn believe(s) that the UK and France should also be engaged”.
Chinese officials, however, have stated they have no interest in joining the negotiations.
Mr Billingslea said: “We are willing to contemplate an extension of New START but such an extension will only occur if we can address significant concerns we have with the Russian build-up of its unconstrained capabilities”.
Mr Billingsea also highlighted the need for new measures to be introduced on verification and transparency issues.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative of Russia to International Organisations in Vienna, said that Russia “stands for an extension of the START treaty” but stressed that it is “not ready to pay any price for that.”
He added: “We got the impression that the option of extension of the START treaty is not closed but the U.S. hesitates to say ‘yes’.
“Russia-US consultations on strategic stability provided a good opportunity for intensive, in-depth and businesslike discussions.
“The sides refrained from mentoring and focused on the pragmatic exchange of views.
“However, priorities at this stage differ significantly”.
It is also feared the new treaty might fall victim to Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
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The policy has already resulted in the US withdrawal from various international agreements including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Last month he formally notified the United Nations that he will pull the US out of the World Health Organization despite the current pandemic.
According to US officials, no future dates have been set aside to continue the negotiations.
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