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US: productive talks with Russia on new nuclear arms deal

New START treaty imposes limits on the number of U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers.
Credit: AP
Marshal Billingslea, U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy for arms control on talks with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on nuclear arms control, informs the press in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

BERLIN, Germany — American and Russian negotiators have concluded a round of nuclear arms control talks in Vienna, aimed at producing a new agreement to replace the New START treaty that expires in February — the last remaining pact constraining the arsenals of the world's two major nuclear powers.

U.S. negotiator Marshall Billingslea told reporters Tuesday that a day of high-level “marathon discussions” ended late Monday night and had been productive enough to conclude with the establishment of several technical working groups to delve deeper into the issues with the idea of paving the way for a second round of talks by late July or early August.

“We both agreed at the termination of our talks that the strategic environment has changed significantly since the New START treaty was signed,” he told reporters. “We can all remember back 10 years ago, the world is, in fact, a radically different place.”

New START imposes limits on the number of U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers. The deal was made in 2010, but the limits didn’t take effect until 2018.

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It became the last nuclear arms pact between the two nations after the U.S. last year scrapped the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, a Cold War-era agreement that both sides had repeatedly accused the other of violating.

The INF treaty was also criticized because it did not cover China or missile technology that did not exist a generation ago.

At a press conference held by the American delegation, Billingslea said any new agreement must include all nuclear weapons and not just strategic nuclear weapons, and also subject China to restrictions.

He said China had refused an American invitation to be part of the Vienna talks, but that he hoped the international community would pressure Beijing to take part in the future. Russia, whose delegation returned home Monday night, did not object to China being part of the talks but also wanted the western European nuclear powers — Britain and France — to be involved, he said.

“The United States is not engaged in an arms race,” Billingslea said. “Of course we will not be left behind, but we seek to avoid this, and this is why a three-way nuclear arms control deal, in our view, has the best chance of avoiding an incredibly destabilizing three-way nuclear arms race.”

Billingslea said he “wouldn’t rule anything in or out” but that the U.S. did not think Britain or France, with much smaller nuclear arsenals, should be included.

“Both qualitatively and quantitatively the United Kingdom and France are in a very different situation than the arms racing Chinese,” he said.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this June 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The U.S. and Russia have agreed to start arms control talks this month as the only remaining treaty between the two largest nuclear powers is poised to expire in less than a year, Marshall Billingslea, the president’s special envoy for arms control, said Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)