Russia offers START extension, US welcomes

New Delhi (NVI): The US and Russia are all set to take forward their last arms control pact for one year which calls for freezing the number of nuclear warheads for the given time  duration, as Washington has welcomed Moscow’s offer in this regard.

The US has welcomed a proposal by Russia to extend the agreement, days after the fate of the nuclear pact between the two most powerful countries in the world went into limbo.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus welcomed the Russian offer and said the US is ready to make a quick agreement.

“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” Ortagus said in a statement. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same,” she added.

In a statement issued yesterday, Russia said that it is ready to accept the US proposal to extend the New START Treaty for one year if Washington agrees to put forward no additional demands.

“Russia offers to extend the New START Treaty for one year and meanwhile is ready to jointly with the US undertake a political commitment to “freeze” for the above-mentioned period the number of nuclear warheads that each side possesses. This position of ours may be implemented only and exclusively on the premise that “freezing” of warheads will not be accompanied by any additional demands on the part of the United States,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement yesterday.

“Were this approach be acceptable for Washington, then the time gained by the extension of the New START Treaty could be used to conduct comprehensive bilateral negotiations on the future nuclear and missile arms control that must address all factors affecting strategic stability,” the Russian Ministry said.

Earlier, both Russia and the US had rejected each other’s offers regarding the New START treaty that expires in February.

The United States had last week rejected a Russian offer to unconditionally extend the pact for one year. It had conveyed that any proposal that did not envisage freezing all nuclear warheads – both strategic and tactical – was a “non-starter”.

The New START treaty was signed in 2010 by then US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

If the extension of the pact takes place successfully, then it will be a good sign for the strained relationship between the two countries. If it fails, then the main pillar maintaining the nuclear balance between them would collapse.