Russian President Vladimir Putin made a strong call on Friday to save the last existing nuclear arms control pact between his country and the United States, proposing to extend it for at least one year. Putin's statement comes amid conflicting signals from Russian and US diplomats about the fate of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that's set to expire in February, per the AP. While Putin is offering to extend the New START as it is, the US has proposed a broader freeze on all nuclear warheads, including battlefield nuclear weapons that aren't covered by the pact, which only limits strategic nuclear arsenals. Moscow says it can't accept the demand. Speaking at a meeting of his Security Council, Putin said "it would be extremely sad if the treaty ceases to exist without being replaced by another fundamental document of the kind."
The New START was signed in 2010 by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START is the only nuclear arms control deal between the two countries still standing. Russia previously offered the pact's extension for five years without any conditions, while the US administration pushed for a new agreement that would also include China. Moscow has described that idea as unfeasible, pointing at Beijing's refusal to negotiate any deal that would reduce its much-smaller nuclear arsenal. Daryl Kimball, head of DC's Arms Control Association, says he hopes Trump accepts Putin's offer of a short-term treaty extension without conditions. "We're in the 11th hour now," he says. "We'd urge President Trump to take yes for an answer."
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