22 Apr 2020 17:53

U.S. ambassador denies Washington's refusal to extend New START

MOSCOW. April 22 (Interfax) - The United States is continuing to consider the possible extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said.

"We're continuing to review the possibility of an extension of the New START Treaty, taking into account the threats we face today, which are different from the threats we faced ten years ago," Sullivan told journalists in response to a question from Interfax on Wednesday.

The U.S. has taken note of Russia's statement that it has no preconditions for treaty extension, he said.

The U.S. and Russia are not planning bilateral meetings on the treaty anytime soon, "due to the Covid-19 situation," but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "are discussing these issues, and we'll continue to engage Russia in the New START treaty's bilateral consultative commission and other diplomatic channels," Sullivan said.

"Our interest in dialogue and in pursuing discussions in New START and arms control generally was reinforced by the recent announcement that my friend and colleague Marshall Billingslea has been appointed as the special presidential envoy for arms control. So my expectation is in light of Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Lavrov's conversations on this topic and Marshall Billingslea's appointment is that there will be movement and discussion soon that will illuminate this issue more for all of us," he said.

Russia and the U.S. signed the New START treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010, and it took effect on February 5, 2011. The treaty will remain in effect until 2021, and may be extended by another five years by mutual consent.

February 5, 2018 was the deadline by which each party had to cut their arsenals to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and heavy bombers (HB), as well as 1,550 warheads on them and 800 deployed and un-deployed launch systems for ICBMs, SLBMs, and HBs.

The U.S. announced the same day that it had 660 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and HBs. If both deployed and un-deployed delivery vehicles and launchers were to be counted, the U.S. said it had 800 of them.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in commenting on the U.S. Department of State's information on the aggregate amount of its strategic offensive weapons, "The result announced by the U.S. has been achieved not only owing to real arms reductions, but also through unilaterally excluding 56 Trident II SLBMs and 41 B-52H heavy bombers from the count."

Moreover, the figures presented by Washington were achieved "through unilaterally requalifying four training silo-based launchers as training silos, which is not envisioned by New START," the Foreign Ministry said.

The re-equipment procedure employed by the U.S. enabled it to retain about 1,300 warheads that may be deployed again, the ministry said.

Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington to start substantive negotiations on extending New START as soon as possible, but the U.S. has still not answered.