17:09 GMT19 October 2020
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    US President Donald Trump may seek to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the US and Russia to draw attention away from his administration’s poor COVID-19 response, Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector and weapons of mass destruction whistleblower, told Radio Sputnik.

    “Trump doesn’t know anything about New START,” Ritter told Radio Sputnik’s Fault Lines hosts Jamarl Thomas and Shane Stranahan on Monday.

    “His head has been filled with nonsense from advisers who were just anti-arms control from the start, and unfortunately he staffed the American arms control delegations over time with people who are anti-arms control. Their job isn’t to come up with better arms control; their job is to eliminate arms control."

    “We’ve seen this with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, we’ve seen that with the termination of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, and we see that now with this drive to not extend and therefore kill the New START treaty. So the inclination for Trump is to kill the treaty,” Ritter added.

    The New START agreement, signed in 2010, is the successor to the Cold War-era START I and 2002’s Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and is set to expire in February 2021.

    Under START I and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - and later the Russian Federation - agreed to reduce and limit strategic offensive arms. 

    The Trump administration’s stance on New START has long been that China join the agreement, or the US may allow the treaty to expire next year. The US administration has also opposed an unconditional five-year extension of the treaty and has requested that Russia limit all types of nuclear warheads and bolster its verification regime if it wants to continue the treaty.

    “Here’s where COVID comes in, because while the president may not be an arms control guy, the president is a politician who has sold himself as the ultimate dealmaker. That is, there isn’t a deal out there that he can’t make better. Although the president has been downplaying New START, let me tell you why he downplays New START: It’s an Obama-era treaty. It’s not so much that the president is against the arms control aspect. He doesn’t understand that. All he knows is that it was an Obama deal, and he cannot continue an Obama deal. He has to make it better. That’s what this president does,” Ritter explained.

    “And the other thing we know about this president is that everything he does, there’s an eye toward reelection, and so now we bring in the COVID aspect of it. In a world without COVID, this treaty was going to die. There’s nothing on the table that indicates that Russia and the US are going to come together. There was one tiny, little thing where Russia said the treaty calls for a five-year extension, and the US came back and said, ‘We’re not going to do five years. We might do something less than one year.’ And Russia came back and said, ‘No it would have to be more than one year.’ So Russia’s left the door open for some kind of agreement that extends New START,” Ritter explained.

    “The president may be desperate for being seen as presidential at a time when he’s being attacked for his COVID-19 response,” Ritter added.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    US, Russia, New START Treaty
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