(Bloomberg) — Russia dashed hopes of a deal on nuclear weapons with U.S. President Donald Trump before next month’s presidential election, dismissing a call by Washington for a freeze on their arsenals as “unacceptable.”
“If the Americans need to report to their superiors that they allegedly reached agreement with Russia before their elections, they won’t get it,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said late Tuesday in comments to local media that he confirmed Wednesday to Bloomberg News.
The U.S. proposal for a nuclear freeze that also covers tactical weapons “has long been known to us” and is rejected by Russia because “we need to deal with their new strategic-range” conventional arms too, including in space and missile defense, said Ryabkov, who leads the Russian negotiating team.
He was responding a day after U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea said there was an agreement in principle for a deal between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If the Americans would agree with the documents we gave them, then an agreement could be reached tomorrow,” Ryabkov said. “But as the differences are too big, I can’t imagine what grounds our colleagues in Washington have to suggest such things.”
The negotiations are taking place as the clock ticks down on the expiry in February of the New START treaty, the last remaining accord limiting the nuclear arsenals of the two former Cold War adversaries. The Trump administration has been resisting Russia’s call for the treaty to be extended, saying it first wants to negotiate a broader arms-control agreement.
Despite Ryabkov’s tough stance, the Kremlin has signaled it still wants a deal. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday it’s “the priority” for Russia to reach an agreement with the U.S. before New START expires, and he expressed concern it may become harder after the Nov. 3 U.S. elections.
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