0846 GMT October 22, 2020
The New START accord, signed in 2010, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that Russia and the US can deploy. It expires in February next year, Reuters reported.
US officials have indicated on social media that an agreement to extend it has been reached in principle.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that no deal had yet been reached despite what the Kremlin hoped was a joint understanding that the pact did need to be extended.
“As for the understanding for the need to extend the START treaty, we hope we are on the same track in this regard,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. “We understand that it needs to be extended, that this is in the interest of our two countries and the strategic security of the whole world.”
Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow did not see prospects for extending the New START arms control treaty with Washington but planned to continue talks nonetheless.
Failure to extend the pact would remove the main pillar maintaining the balance of nuclear arms between Moscow and Washington, adding another element of tension to their already fraught relationship.
New START is a successor to the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) signed in 1991 between the then-Soviet Union and the US.
Arms deals between the then-US president, Ronald Reagan, and Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the 1980s, and their successors George H.W. Bush and Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, in the 1990s, underscored growing trust between the superpowers and contributed to ending the Cold War.
In addition, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov rejected as “unacceptable” the proposal by the US to condition the extension of the New START arms control treaty, according to Press TV.
“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 would be a verified freeze on the complete arsenals of both countries, including nonstrategic (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 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.