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US looking into possibility of extending New START, no decision made yet — diplomat

The document is set to exire on February 5, 2021, unless it is replaced with another agreement or extended until 2026

WASHINGTON, December 3. /TASS/. The United States is looking into the possibility of extending the Russian-US New START treaty on strategic arms reduction, but no decision on the issue has been made so far, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation Christopher Ford said on Monday.

"I would say on the issue of the New Start extension, as my colleagues and me made quite clear, that this is something certainly under consideration. We haven’t made the decision one way or the other," the US diplomat said at a Washington-based think tank, the Stimson Center.

"We are approaching that question in part through the prism of how and whether and to what degree the question of the New START extension can contribute to what we think is by far a more important objective, and that is to find a framework for arms control that is capable and will help nip in the bud the emerging three-way arms race in the nuclear arena that I fear that Russia and China’s nuclear posture and regional military strategies and threats to our allies are threatening to create," he added.

Possibility of long-term trilateral mechanism

In the US diplomat’s words, Washington aims to seek for a long-term trilateral arms control mechanism with Moscow and Beijing.

"Finding out ways to get our arms around that problem and finding a trilateral answer to the arms control challenge, to which [US] President [Donald] Trump has repeatedly referred in public is our primal objective. And we are looking at issues such as not exclusively but being a New Start extension from the perspective of how we can most contribute to finding that long-term answer.

"And I do stress that we need a long-term answer, a longer-term answer to these challenges, because even if it were extended, New START only goes for an additional five years. Already, the Russians are building weapons outside the New START context," the official continued.

In his opinion, the majority of Russia’s most advanced weapons "will presumably not be covered by the New START under any scenario."

"So they are already building things that are not reached by the New START framework. The Chinese are, of course, on the trajectory to at least double size of their nuclear arsenal in the next ten years. And this, of course, leaves aside the issue of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons," the US assistant secretary of state said.

"These are all challenges that are sort of coming together at the same time. And it is really imperative that we find some way of addressing the Russian and Chinese challenges in an arms control framework. And, as there is no way to do that at present, our objective is to find that way," he continued.

In his opinion, Russia, the United States and China still have the time for this trilateral effort, despite the fact that the New START treaty expires in slightly more than a year.

"I think there is plenty of time to engage with them and to move that objective of a trilateral framework forward. And we are looking forward to do it," Ford said.

New START Treaty

The New START Treaty, which was signed by Moscow and Washington in 2010, stipulates that seven years after it goes into effect, each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers.

The document is set to remain in effect until February 5, 2021, unless it is replaced with another agreement on nuclear arms reduction. It can also be extended for no more than five years (until 2026) with the consent of both parties.

Moscow calls on Washington not to delay solving the issue on a possible extension of the treaty, which it has described as "a golden standard" in disarmament. Responding to a question from TASS on November 4, US President Donald Trump said that the United States would like to conclude a new arms control treaty with Russia, China and, possibly, several more states. Trump did not reply, however, to an additional question about whether the United States would like to extend the New START Treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier said in an interview with The Financial Times that if this treaty ceased to exist there would be no other tools in the world containing the arms race.