09:29 GMT24 September 2020
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    The New START treaty, the only remaining legally binding US-Russian agreement on nuclear arms control that has been in force since 2011, is due to expire in February 2021, with the Trump administration having repeatedly indicated it would be allowed to come to an end unless a new deal was signed to include other nations, mainly China.

    Russian and US officials have embarked upon a third round of nuclear arms-control talks in the Austrian capital with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Treaty (New START) is set to expire in February 2021.

    The meeting in Vienna is led by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea.

    ​The two sides are locked in discussions over the fate of their last remaining nuclear arms-control agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads Russia and the US can deploy at 1,550. The agreement also places limitations on the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ICBM launchers.

    US President Donald Trump earlier indicated he would prefer a new deal to include other nations, mainly China, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has gone on the record as underscoring that Russia wants to extend the New START as soon as possible, but without preconditions.

    No apparent breakthrough was visible after the previous rounds of talks in June, when Billingslea said the US was "leaving all options on the table" regarding the future of the treaty, including extending it.

    Beijing was invited to the talks but did not send its delegation there.

    Washington has been setting forth three key preconditions for a possible extension of the treaty.

    Verification

    Firstly, Ambassador Marshall S. Billingslea suggested US dissatisfaction with New START’s verification measures, without specifying any details, and against the backdrop of the State Department’s annual compliance report confirming that Russia was meeting the treaty’s terms. Nevertheless, verification measures were designated as the third condition for a New START extension.

    More ‘Comprehensive’ Treaty

    Washington’s second condition dealt with extending the negotiations to include nuclear arms not constrained by New START, especially Russia’s large number of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

    The US insistence on introducing the newest Russian weapons systems into the talks is basically a matter of “knocking on an open door”, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in July.

     Dec. 4, 1989 file photo shows the launch of a Trident II, D-5 missile from the submerged USS Tennessee submarine in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. As of mid-2010, 12 operational U.S. nuclear-missile submarines carry a total of 288 Trident missiles. A movement is growing worldwide to abolish nuclear weapons, encouraged by President Barack Obama's endorsement of that goal. But realists argue that more stability and peace must first be achieved in the world.
    © AP Photo / Phil Sandlin
    Dec. 4, 1989 file photo shows the launch of a Trident II, D-5 missile from the submerged USS Tennessee submarine in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. As of mid-2010, 12 operational U.S. nuclear-missile submarines carry a total of 288 Trident missiles. A movement is growing worldwide to abolish nuclear weapons, encouraged by President Barack Obama's endorsement of that goal. But "realists" argue that more stability and peace must first be achieved in the world.

    Earlier, in February, Lavrov emphasized that in previous contacts between the sides it was explained to the US that Russia would be willing to leave open the possibility that some of the newest rocket systems could be the subject of discussion, despite the fact that they are weapons outside the classic terms of START-3.

    Bringing China to the Table

    The president’s “arms control” envoy, Marshall Billingslea, told The Washington Times on 7 May that before there is talk about an extension of New START, Russia must “bring the Chinese to the negotiating table.”

    Beijing has dismissed the overtures as long as Russian and US nuclear arsenals remain orders of magnitude larger than China’s.

    While Washington has been urging Russia to sway the Chinese stance on the issue, Moscow has responded by saying it is up to Beijing to make that decision.

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated in February that Moscow “will not try to convince China” to join the talks.

    China considers the United States' attempts to engage Beijing in trilateral US-China-Russia arms control talks as a ploy by Washington to overshadow its pursuit of nuclear hegemony, Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui said.

    "The US has repeatedly made proposals on arms control for China, Russia and the US and promoted the 'China factor' to distract international attention, pursuing to justify its withdrawal from the US-Russian New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START] and pursuing 'self-liberation' and achievement of absolute strategic advantage. China and Russia see this very clearly," Zhang said.

    Be that as it may, the parties to the current talks might be construed as having geared up for a constructive dialogue, with Marshall Billingsley tweeting that one of the most representative US delegations, which included high-ranking military personnel, was dispatched to Vienna, intent on “serious dialogue”.

    ​The level of Russian representation, according to Sergei Ryabkov, is appropriate, so there is a chance that START-3 is not entirely doomed.

    Related:

    Russia Continues to Comply With New START Treaty - US State Department
    US Likely to Soon Decide Not to Extend New START Treaty - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
    US Ready for 'Good Faith' Negotiations on New START Treaty With Russia, O'Brien Says
    Russian Military Has Calculated Consequences of US Withdrawal From New START Treaty, Envoy Says
    US Using 'China Factor' in Arms Control Talks with Russia to Dodge New START - Chinese Ambassador
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    nuclear, nuclear, Marshall Billingslea, China, New START Treaty, New START Treaty, START treaty, START treaty
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