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22 Jan, 2021 14:14

Top Russian politicians say New START nuclear deal with US can be saved despite ticking clock, after Biden asks for extension

Top Russian politicians say New START nuclear deal with US can be saved despite ticking clock, after Biden asks for extension

Time is running out to prevent the collapse of a vital nuclear agreement between Russia and the US, but a last-minute deal could be on the cards as Washington signals it may be about to come back to the table.

On Friday, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Committee in Russia’s senate, also known as the Federation Council, told RIA Novosti that there may still be an opportunity to save the New START treaty, which is set to expire in February.

Responding to suggestions by White House spokesman Jen Psaki that the US could agree to a five-year extension on the pact, Kosachev said this was “great news, provided it isn’t accompanied by any additional conditions and just extends the current text.” Changes to terms and conditions are thought to have been a sticking point for forging an agreement with Donald Trump’s White House.

An internal State Department memo obtained by NBC News earlier this week also added to speculation, noting that the US would suggest carrying over the terms of the treaty. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has also welcomed the potential move, telling journalists that Russia without doubt supports the preservation and extension of the New START treaty.

Signed in 2010, New START is one of a series of arms reduction treaties agreed since the end of the Cold War. It halved the number of strategic nuclear missiles, bombers and launchers that Russia and the US can maintain in their armories.

There are fears that if a deal is not reached before the pact expires it could herald the start of a new arms race, with both countries seeking to increase their capacity to deliver nuclear payloads. However, at his annual end-of-year press conference, Putin was scathing about the prospect of Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear treaty.

“The arms race has already begun,” the president said. “After the US withdrew from the nuclear defense treaty, that’s exactly what happened.”

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