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US seeks to pressure Russia into nuclear weapons treaty concessions before election

September 18, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The Trump administration is threatening Russia that they could increase the cost of extending the one remaining nuclear weapons treaty between the two countries if Moscow does not commit to meeting US demands, including agreeing to stronger verification measures, before the American presidential election in November.

Washington (CNN)The Trump administration is threatening Russia that they could increase the cost of extending the one remaining nuclear weapons treaty between the two countries if Moscow does not commit to meeting US demands, including agreeing to stronger verification measures, before the American presidential election in November.

Moscow has said it is open to renewing it for five years, while the Trump administration is seeking a new framework and will only renew the treaty if Russia makes additional commitments.

"The Trump administration is playing a risky game of chicken with the New START treaty, which has proven to be effective, which both sides are complying with and which is essential for US and Russian national security," said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association.

China, which the Trump administration has unsuccessfully attempted to draw into nuclear arms control talks, is seeking to at least double the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal in the next decade and its military has already equaled or surpassed the United States in a series of key areas, according to a new Pentagon report released this month.

The demands the Trump administration has already insisted that Russia agrees to, if they want New START extended, include: a commitment to follow-on talks about an arms control agreement that includes all US and Russian nuclear weapons, a commitment that China will be part of the next arms control treaty and stronger verification measures.

If Russia made such a commitment, it could lead to Trump and Putin meeting to sign a treaty before Election Day. Trump has broadly discussed the negotiations during recent phone calls with the Russian President, but it is unclear what kind of details they focused in on.

Billingslea himself used the US election deadline as a peg to threaten the Russians to come to the table now -- but he said that Trump is not demanding progress on a nuclear agreement with Russia before November.

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