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Russia Responds Negatively to Billingslea ‘Offer’ on Arms Control

Oct. 3, 2020 (EIRNS)—Russia has officially responded, quite negatively, to the conditions for a new arms control agreement that were set out by U.S. arms control envoy Marshall Billingslea in a Sept. 20 interview with Russian business daily Kommersant. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov replied in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published yesterday. He told the Journal that the Trump Administration’s demands that a future treaty cover all Russia, Chinese and U.S. warheads and include more-intrusive verification is “clearly a nonstarter for us.” He also warned that Moscow is prepared to respond if the U.S. allows the New START treaty to lapse on Feb. 5, 2021 and moves to expand its nuclear arsenal. “We would be ready to counter this,” he said.

“We are not going to buy this extension of the New START at any price, especially not at the price which the U.S. wants us to pay,” he said. “I think our positions are currently very far apart.” U.S. officials had no immediate comment on Ryabkov’s comments. A U.S. official told the Journal that the administration is in the early stages of discussing possible steps to expand U.S. nuclear forces as outlined by Billingslea in the Kommersant interview.

Ryabkov suggested that it was reasonable to ask China, Britain and France to participate in a new arms control process, but as none of those three countries has shown any such interest, it should continue between the U.S. and Russia. He further stated that the “sensible verification procedures” that were negotiated for New START should be relied on to monitor nuclear limits instead of the more-stringent measures Billingslea has demanded for a future accord.

In the Kommersant interview, Billingslea essentially made Russia an “offer” he thought Moscow could not refuse and warned that if Moscow refused it anyway, it could expect to be offered worse terms if President Donald Trump is re-elected on Nov. 3.

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