Speaking on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to extend the 2011 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the United States without “any preconditions.“ Putin‘s comments marked the clearest and most authoritative Russian offer to extend the treaty, which caps the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the United States and Russia and is due to expire if not extended in February 2021. New START can be extended once for a five-year term if both Moscow and Washington agree.
“In this regard, I would like to reiterate our position: Russia is willing to immediately, as soon as possible, before the year is out, renew this treaty without any preconditions,” Putin said. To emphasize the finality of the Russian position, he added: “I am stating this officially so that there are no double or triple interpretations of our position later on.”
“The New START treaty, which expires soon, is another item on the disarmament agenda,” the Russian president said. “All of our proposals to renew this treaty are on the table,” he added, continuing that Russia had “not received any response” from the United States.
Putin made the remarks during a meeting with top defense officials, including Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, in Sochi. In addition to New START, Putin discussed the now-defunct Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the United States withdraw from unilaterally earlier this year after accusing Russia of violating the treaty for more than five years. Russia, in reaction to the U.S. withdrawal, suspended its obligations under the treaty.
On Thursday, Putin denied that Russia violated the INF Treaty. Speaking of the treaty‘s end, he said that “attempts are being made to shift the responsibility onto us.” The Russian leader continued that “This position has no grounds whatsoever, but nevertheless, the attempt is being made.” The United States accused Russia of developing, testing, and deploying a ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729 that violates the range limits that had been imposed by the INF Treaty.
The Trump administration has not made clear that it is willing to extend New START without any preconditions. One of the administration‘s main concerns has been that New START does not include China, a growing concern for the United States. China‘s nuclear arsenal is an order of magnitude smaller than that of either Russia or the United States and Beijing, owing to its “no first use“ nuclear posture, largely does not deploy its nuclear forces with mated warheads in peacetime.
New START caps the deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs of the United States at Russia at 1,550 each. The Treaty also includes limits on missiles, bombers, and land-based launchers for nuclear weapons. Among its other provisions, the Treaty allows for verification inspections and information-sharing. Both Moscow and Washington have found each other in compliance with the Treaty.