Trump administration officials want to broaden the New START accord and warn that the price of a new deal will rise after the election. Joe Biden supports a straight five-year extension of the deal.
By David E. Sanger and Andrew E. Kramer
President Trump had a pre-election plan to show he had gotten something out of his mysteriously friendly relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
In the weeks before the election, the two men would announce that they had reached an agreement in principle to extend New START, the last remaining major arms control agreement between the two countries. It expires on Feb. 5, two weeks after the next presidential inauguration.
Mr. Trump has long refused to sign off on a clean five-year extension of the agreement, a step both leaders could take without Senate approval. He has described the Obama-era treaty as deeply flawed — the same thing he said about the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran nuclear accord — because it did not cover all of Russia’s nuclear arms, or any of China’s.
But if Mr. Putin is really rooting for Mr. Trump to be re-elected, he is not acting like it.
On Tuesday, Marshall Billingslea, Mr. Trump’s lead negotiator, announced that the two leaders had an “agreement in principle, at the highest levels of our two governments, to extend the treaty.” Mr. Billingslea described an added “gentleman’s agreement” to cap each country’s stockpile of weapons not currently deployed on missiles, submarines or bombers. Details needed to be worked out, he cautioned, including the tricky work of verifying compliance.
It sounded like a promising solution, for a few hours.
Then the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, shot back that this was a figment of someone’s election-season imagination. “Washington is describing what is desired, not what is real,” he said in a statement. For example, he said, Moscow would not freeze the number of tactical weapons it possesses.
With less than three weeks to Election Day, it seems no agreement is in the offing, and Trump administration officials are saying that, after the election, the price will go up. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee who was involved in the negotiation of the original agreement in 2010, has indicated that, if elected, he will agree to a straightforward, immediate extension of the accord for five years, the maximum allowed under the current terms, and then work to expand its scope.
As a result, Mr. Putin, looking at the polls, may be calculating that there is no reason to agree to any additional limits. But it also suggests that despite the C.I.A.’s conclusion that the Russian leader has a preference for Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin may also be hedging his bets — or betting that Mr. Trump will be a private citizen by the time the treaty runs out.
Source: Read Full Article