Negotiators from the U.S. and Russia are nearing a deal to freeze production of nuclear warheads and extend a major arms control pace, according to officials in both Washington, D.C. and Moscow.
“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Saturday. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.”
That preliminary agreement could avert the expiration of the New START treaty in February, which stands currently as the only arms control pact in force. U.S. attempts to bring China into the talks has somewhat jeopardized the extension of the pact. Also, American frustration with the Kremlin’s turn toward tactical nuclear weapons, but a bare-bones deal that maintains the status quo while buying time for further talks is getting closer.
“This position of ours may be implemented only and exclusively on the premise that ‘freezing’ of warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands on the part of the United States,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a Tuesday bulletin.
“Were this approach [to] be acceptable for Washington, then the time gained by the extension of the New START Treaty could be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future nuclear and missile arms control that must address all factors affecting strategic stability.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s team said that the U.S. has not given an “official” statement on such an idea.
“We are very, very close to a deal,” a senior Trump administration official told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the development. “Now that the Russians have agreed to a warhead freeze, I do not see why we cannot work out the remaining issues in the coming days.”
The two sides still have to agree on how to verify that the warhead freeze is being implemented faithfully, which is always a difficult question, but especially in the wake of Russia’s extensive violations of the 1987 ban on land-based intermediate-range cruise missiles.
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