The news website Axios has cited former US Department of Energy Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Frank Klotz as saying that the Trump administration has at least three paramount concerns related to extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
First and foremost, Washington is alarmed about the treaty not covering tactical nuclear weapons, according to Klotz.
Secondly, it doesn’t deal with the new nuclear delivery systems that Russia is allegedly now developing.
And last but not least, the New START fails to contain China which continues to expand its nuclear capabilities.
Axios reported in this context that the third point especially matters given the White House’s concerns that the possible extension of New START may hamper Washington's hopes of a trilateral deal involving China and Russia.
The speculation comes after Rose Gottemoeller, the lead US negotiator on the new arms reduction treaty, said on Wednesday that China has no intention and little push to join such a deal.
The statement followed Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, touting the New START as a document that provides “continuous stability in an increasingly uncertain world".
He also warned of the worst-case scenario, which Mullen claimed is an "arms race that none of us can afford”.
Russia Concerned Over US Unwillingness to Extend New START Treaty
The remarks were preceded by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggesting last month that the US may soon decide not to extend the new nuclear arms reduction accord.
"We have recently released a statement by the Foreign Ministry on the tenth anniversary of the New START treaty. The US has completely ignored this date, which is not surprising. All the signs that the US is on the threshold of making a decision not to extend this document are there", Ryabkov said.
He spoke after the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow is expecting Washington to soon provide a "positive answer" to Russia's proposal to extend the New START.
Ryabkov was echoed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov who stressed that one should discuss the possible extension of the accord with Washington, since Moscow is not the party trying to break it.
In late December, US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford said that Washington hasn’t “made a decision [on the matter] one way or the other”.
“We are approaching that question in part through a prism of how and whether and to what degree the question of the New START extension can contribute to what we think is by far a more important objective, and this is to find a framework for arms control that is capable and will help nip in the bud the emerging three-way arms race in the nuclear arena”, he added.
The New START, which was inked by Russia and the US in 2010, stipulates a reduction in the number of strategic nuclear missiles launchers by one-half and limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550. The agreement is set to expire in February 2021, and the US has so far not announced plans to extend it.