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article imageTrump wants to force Russian concessions on nuclear treaty

By Ken Hanly     Sep 19, 2020 in Politics
Trump hopes for a foreign policy victory before he faces the presidential election in November. Trump is trying to force nuclear concessions on Russia as part of extending the New START treaty that expires next February..
New START is the last nuclear arms treaty between US and Russia
The Trump administration appears to believe that Russia is very anxious to extend the treaty and on that basis will use the Russian's anxiety to force concessions on it. This may be a risky move as Russia may instead decide to wait and see if a new president replaces Trump. The Trump position shows that the view that Trump is a puppet of Putin is far from the reality. Trump is in effect being tough on Russia whereas Russia is willing to extend the treaty.
New START limits the number of nuclear warheads each country can have deployed and includes a verification regime. Talks on arms control have been going on between Russia and the US for months now.
Russia's position
Moscow has repeated offered to extend the New Start program for five years without preconditions as the treaty itself allows. However, up to now, the US has always rejected the Russian offer. The US sees the Russians as so desperate for have the treaty extended that they will make concessions to extend the treaty.
The US position
President Trump’s envoy for the arms control talks, Marshall Billingslea, said to CNN: “What we have suggested to the Russians in terms of the way ahead is — in our view precisely that the Russians have a choice to make. But they may find the price of admission goes up after November.” Billingslea must be assuming that Trump will be reelected as president. The Democratic contender for president Joe BIden is in favor of extending the treaty. He may be willing to do so without preconditions or concessions. Russia is likely to wait and see if Biden wins the election on November 3 rather than grant any concessions to Trump.
Even though the present New START treaty allows up to 18 on-site inspections each year, the US is demanding that Russia concede to even stricter verification. The Trump administration is also seeking a commitment from Russia that China will be part of the next arms control treaty.
The China issue
China has no interest
in being part of a treaty with Russia and the US. until China has itself a nuclear arsenal at least close to that of Russia and China. Current estimates of China''s nuclear arms are that it has around 300 warheads while the US and Russia both have around 6,000 each. The New Start Treaty allows maximum number to be deployed at 1,550 but that is still over five times the total number of warheads China possesses.
When asked Billingslea said that Russian President Putin had all sorts of leverage to force China to join. He did not say what that leverage was!
More about Russia US relations, New Start nuclear treaty, Marshall Billignslea
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