- The Washington Times - Friday, January 22, 2021
The top spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday welcomed — with reservations — the new Biden administration’s offer to extend the expiring New START arms control deal for another five years.
The treaty, one of the last major arms control deals still in force between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers, was set to expire early next month after talks with the Kremlin deadlocked in the final months of the Trump administration.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow Friday that Russia welcomed the U.S. announcement, but cautioned that critical details of the U.S. proposal still had to be clarified.
“Russia is for preserving New START and for extending this treaty in order to gain time for talks and contacts,” Mr. Peskovsaid, according to a report in the TASS news agency. “We can only welcome the political will to extend this document, but everything will depend on the details of this proposal, which are yet to be studied.”
Mr. Peskov did not clarify whether Russia had received a formal offer from Washington outlining the five-year extension, which by treaty can be done unilaterally by Mr. Biden without congressional approval.
The Trump administration in its final year pushed for significant revisions in New START, citing a Russian build-up in shorter-range nuclear weapons not covered under the deal and the need to bring China and its rapidly growing nuclear arsenal into the talks.
China, saying its nuclear programs are much smaller than those of the U.S. and Russia, repeatedly refused to join the talks.
Marshall Billingslea, the Trump administration’s top negotiator in the arms control talks, has already criticized the new administration’s offer of a lengthy extension of the current deal. Mr. Biden also had the option of extending New START for just a year to gain more time to negotiate a better deal.
“Took just 24 hours for Biden team to squander most significant leverage we have over Russia,” Mr. Billingslea tweeted this week.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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