The United States is looking into the possibility of extending the Russian-US New START treaty on strategic arms reduction, but no decision on the issue has been made so far, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation Christopher Ford said on Monday.
“I would say on the issue of the New Start extension, as my colleagues and me made quite clear, that this is something certainly under consideration. We haven’t made the decision one way or the other,” the US diplomat said at a Washington-based think tank, the Stimson Center.
“We are approaching that question in part through the prism of how and whether and to what degree the question of the New START extension can contribute to what we think is by far a more important objective, and that is to find a framework for arms control that is capable and will help nip in the bud the emerging three-way arms race in the nuclear arena that I fear that Russia and China’s nuclear posture and regional military strategies and threats to our allies are threatening to create,” he added.
In the US diplomat’s words, Washington aims to seek for a long-term trilateral arms control mechanism with Moscow and Beijing.
“Finding out ways to get our arms around that problem and finding a trilateral answer to the arms control challenge, to which [US] President [Donald] Trump has repeatedly referred in public is our primal objective. And we are looking at issues such as not exclusively but being a New Start extension from the perspective of how we can most contribute to finding that long-term answer.
“And I do stress that we need a long-term answer, a longer-term answer to these challenges, because even if it were extended, New START only goes for an additional five years. Already, the Russians are building weapons outside the New START context,” the official continued.
In his opinion, the majority of Russia’s most advanced weapons “will presumably not be covered by the New START under any scenario.”
“So they are already building things that are not reached by the New START framework. The Chinese are, of course, on the trajectory to at least double size of their nuclear arsenal in the next ten years. And this, of course, leaves aside the issue of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons,” the US assistant secretary of state said.
“These are all challenges that are sort of coming together at the same time. And it is really imperative that we find some way of addressing the Russian and Chinese challenges in an arms control framework. And, as there is no way to do that at present, our objective is to find that way,” he continued.
In his opinion, Russia, the United States and China still have the time for this trilateral effort, despite the fact that the New START treaty expires in slightly more than a year.
“I think there is plenty of time to engage with them and to move that objective of a trilateral framework forward. And we are looking forward to do it,” Ford said.