The US Special Envoy for Arms Control, Marshall Billingslea, on Thursday said that he is working with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on plans to meet as soon as possible, noting that the Trump administration is seeking "a new arms control regime now" that would include both Russia and China.
"We intend to establish a new arms control regime now precisely to prevent a full blown arms race. It’s for all of these reasons that President Trump has expressed his strong desire to see China included in future nuclear arms control agreements," Billingslea said during a virtual conference at the Hudson Institute. "A three-way arms control agreement will provide the best way to avoid an unpredictable three-way arms race."
The senior official said that it is too early to speculate on extending the New START Treaty, noting that all parties have enough time to look at the full range of options.
Billingslea also said that the US wants Russia to destroy all its nuclear warheads for ground theater-range systems, seeing no distinction between tactical and strategic non-conventional weaponry.
“We want Russia to adhere to the pledged reductions in theater-range systems, including elimination of all its nuclear warheads for ground-based tactical systems,” Billingslea said.
The envoy argued that Washington is ready to discuss missile defense with Moscow, but does not foresee limitations.
"Ryabkov has already clearly indicated to me that he is going to raise missile defense and the number of other topics. I am sure we are going to have discussions," Billigsea said. "We will talk, but I do not foresee limitations".
In June 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT), the 1972 arms control agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union on the limitation of the anti-ballistic missile systems used to defend against ballistic missile-delivered nuclear weapons.
The official claimed that Moscow and Beijing are currently involved in an arms race, emphasizing that trilateral talks on arms control are needed to move forward from the current position.
"I am really curious, who is arms racing here. Now, certainly it’s not us, and it’s neither us nor the United Kingdom nor France. The arms race is happening with Russia and China right now," Billingslea suggested. "That’s precisely what the president’s made clear: trilaterization is where we need to go."
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted Moscow would like the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) - the last remaining arms control treaty in force between Russia and the United States - to continue under a new five-year extension so that any new ideas could be considered without rushing.
Trump has said he would propose a new trilateral arms control initiative to include Russia and China to avoid a costly arms race. The announcement came amid debates on the future of the New START, which expires in February 2021.
Russia has repeatedly invited the United States to extend the New START for another five years without preconditions. However, the Trump administration has signaled that it favors negotiating an amended arms control regime that would also include China and possibly the United Kingdom and France.