Russian diplomat pushes for nuclear pact’s extension

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A Russian diplomat on Thursday reaffirmed Moscow’s push for extending the last remaining nuclear treaty with the United States, saying there is no time left to negotiate any changes to that.

Vladimir Leontyev, a deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, said during parliamentary hearings that it’s impossible to modify the New Start treaty that expires in February 2021.

Leontyev said that the U.S. has continued to stonewall Russian offers to extend the pact and recently refused to hold a meeting between experts to discuss legal aspects of its possible extension.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has pushed for China to join nuclear arms cuts, but Russian officials have described the idea as unrealistic given Beijing’s refusal to discuss reductions in its nuclear arsenal, which is much smaller than those of the U.S. or Russia.

The New Start, which was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. The treaty, which can be extended by another five years, includes a comprehensive verification regime to check compliance, including on-site inspections of each side’s nuclear bases.

Its expiration would remove any limits on Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals for the first time in decades.

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