U.S., Russia near deal to extend nuclear arms treaty, freeze warheads

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Oct. 20 (UPI) — The United States and Russia moved closer Tuesday to reaching a deal on nuclear arms control that would freeze both nations’ nuclear warheads.

Russia said it was “ready, together with the United States, to make a political commitment to ‘freeze’ the number of nuclear warheads held by the parties” through February 2022 and extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for a year.

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

The New START treaty — which reduces long-range arms — is set to expire in February and can be extended for up to five years. Russia previously stated it was prepared to extend the treaty for a year without conditions.

The two sides appeared to have clashed over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to extend the treaty, but a senior Trump administration official told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the two sides were “very, very close to a deal.”

Under the Trump administration’s plan for the freeze, both nations would declare the number of warheads deployed on launchers of all ranges and those in storage and pledge to not exceed that inventory.

The deal would also allow the sides time to negotiate an additional treaty, with the Trump administration pushing for China’s inclusion.

Trump previously withdrew from other arms-control measures with Russia, calling them unfair to the United States and accusing the Russian government of violating the terms.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in November’s election, said he supports an extension to the New START treaty as a foundation for new arms-control arrangements.

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