The US President’s Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingsley said that he considers Washington’s proposed parameters for a new strategic offensive arms agreement with Moscow “a good proposal,” despite the controversy that arose.
“Russia itself must decide whether it wants to extend the New START. We made a good offer. We do not think this proposal is unfair. We believe it is based on the principle of reciprocity and will lead to greater transparency. And we think this is very valuable in the current environment when the United States and Russia do not trust each other in anything,” Billingsley said.
The agreement was concluded between Russia and the United States in 2010 and came into force in 2011. It expires in February 2021. In accordance with the agreement, Moscow and Washington must reduce the number of nuclear warheads in service to about 1,500 each, and the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles in service, as well as missiles on submarines and heavy bombers, to 700.
Billingsley said Moscow and Washington have already reached a consensus on China’s participation in a possible new agreement on nuclear weapons and their means of delivery.
At the same time, the United States opposes the inclusion in the treaty of its European allies – Great Britain and France.
“We made it clear to our Russian colleagues that what China is doing is significantly different from what the UK and France are doing. Neither Britain nor France is building up their nuclear arsenals. China is actively developing and deploying its nuclear weapons,” Billingsley explained.
Speaking about the structure of the new treaty, Billingsley indicated that it could have several components.
For example, nuclear weapons verification agreements may be frameworks to begin with and “require perhaps a more schematic approach to technical details that will be refined later”.
Other agreements, in particular regarding the mutual accounting of the arsenals of countries, initially require an agreement “containing political commitments of the parties.”
Despite the fact that Washington insists on China’s participation in the new agreement, the United States does not intend to require other nuclear-armed countries such as Pakistan, India or North Korea to join the treaty. Billingsley explained that expanding the circle of participants will make the agreement inoperative due to the delay in the negotiation process.
Billingsley pointed out that Washington does not intend to export nuclear weapons from Europe among the principal issues for the United States.
In general, Billingsley called the proposals made by the United States to extend or renegotiate the New START “moderate” and “reasonable”, stressing that if Russia does not agree to them now, then after the US presidential elections, the treaties will become more complicated.
“I suppose that if Russia does not accept the terms, then after Trump is re-elected, the “entrance fee,” as we say in the United States, will increase. I think that if by that time we do not move forward, then we will have a number of new conditions on which we will have to insist. But so far, the proposal remains in force in the form in which we made it,” he said.
Billingsley stressed that the extension of the New START, which expires in February 2021, is not fundamental for the United States in any case.
“We made an offer [to Russia] in good faith. But if Russia does not want to accept it, that’s okay. We are going to modernize our nuclear forces. Russia has largely finished modernizing its nuclear arsenal. We are just starting ours. And we will be extremely happy to continue it without the restrictions envisaged by the New START,” he concluded.
Billingsley said in early May that Russia should persuade China to join arms control negotiations, calling it a key condition for extending the agreement. Washington has previously spoken about the need to connect Beijing to START – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this in April 2019.
In July, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the fate of the New START was a foregone conclusion, since the United States, apparently, decided not to extend it.
“The persistence with which the lack of alternative of transferring the entire conversation to a trilateral plane is emphasized, it says that this is already a foregone conclusion,” the minister explained.
The proposed deal is especially favorable to the US, and attempts to put Russia in a position in which it needs to persuade China to also partake in the agreement. The US wants to status quo to continue, with both the UK and France keeping Washington’s nuclear weapons on their soil, and be free to develop further weapons of their own, while both Russia and China would need to be subdued.
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