The US and Russia on Friday rejected each other's proposals for potentially salvaging the last remaining legal constraint on their strategic nuclear forces. President Vladimir Putin called for an unconditional extension of the soon-to-expire New START treaty, the AP reports, and the White House called that a "non-starter." Adding an edge to the diplomatic clash, President Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, suggested the Russians rethink their stance "before a costly arms race ensues." Administration officials have previously alluded to building up nuclear forces if the treaty is abandoned, though the Pentagon has its hands full paying for a one-for-one replacement of older nuclear weapons. In the closing days of his reelection bid, Trump has looked to boost his foreign policy record, and though he says he favors nuclear arms control, he has called New START flawed and unfavorable to the US.
Last year, Trump pulled the US from a separate nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and he waited until this year to begin engaging the Russians on the future of the New START deal. Democrat Joe Biden, who was vice president when New START was negotiated during the Obama administration and ratified by the Senate, has said he would not hesitate to agree to Putin's original proposal for a five-year extension of New START. That would be followed by negotiation of a follow-on deal. The Trump administration recently proposed a one-year extension of the 2010 treaty, which is set to expire in February 2021, but it said this must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on US and Russian nuclear warheads. The cap would cover warheads not limited by the New START treaty. Putin said Friday a one-year extension was OK but should not be conditioned on a wider cap on warheads.
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