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U.S. and Russia Conclude New Round of Arms Control Talks

Aug. 18, 2020 (EIRNS)—U.S. and Russian delegations meeting in Vienna today completed the latest round of strategic stability talks with a slight uptick in optimism that something could be accomplished. Marshall Billingslea, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control, told reporters afterwards that “there are some areas of convergence between Russia and the United States, but we do remain far apart on a number of key issues.” The key issues include Chinese participation in the talks—China was invited again, but still declined to send a delegation—and the U.S. demand that all nuclear warheads, not just strategic warheads, be included in a new agreement.

Billingslea, for the first time, indicated that the U.S. was willing to consider an extension of the 2010 New START treaty—Moscow has proposed extending the treaty without conditions—but only if there were a politically binding framework for making changes to New START, which he called “deeply flawed,” reported The Associated Press. Aside from wanting to include short- range warheads on the warhead counts, the U.S. also wants changes in the verification and inspection procedures. “If we can fix these things, and if we can address all warheads, and if we do so in a way that’s extendable to China, ultimately, then we would be prepared,” Billingslea said. “Again, it’s President Trump’s decision. We’re not going to take a bad deal back to him, but we would recommend that we consider, that he consider, an extension of the New START treaty this year.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, leading the Russian delegation, remarked on the “business-like nature and the decrease in counterproductive rhetoric” of the U.S. side.

“The talks were very intense and energetic. We reached depths in many aspects. Professional discussions draw attention by the level of immersion in the material. This was facilitated by the fact that both American and Russian sides were represented at these consultations by serious delegations which included representatives of all relevant agencies,”

he said, reported TASS.

“If we use it, it pursues specific goals, namely, a better understanding of each other’s approaches and of those moments that don’t satisfy the opposing side. And the second thing is the necessity to understand clearly where for whom red lines lie which one cannot cross,” he declared.

A followup meeting has not yet been scheduled. Billingslea said that one could be scheduled in as soon as in two weeks but that “the ball is in Russia’s court; we’ve signaled what we need to see.”

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