Putin suggests extending New START arms control treaty with U.S.

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The United States on Friday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to extend the New START nuclear treaty for one year unconditionally, countering that both nations must cap warheads during the period.

A person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press Friday that US and Russian negotiators have agreed in principle to continue freezing their nuclear warhead stockpiles in a bid to salvage the New START. Russian Federation has balked at some USA demands in the talks and at the Trump administration's argument that China's growing nuclear arsenal should be included in the accord.

Earlier in the day, Putin proposed to extend the New START without conditions for at least a year for further negotiations.

"I have a proposal, namely, to extend the current Treaty without any conditions for at least a year in order to be able to conduct meaningful negotiations on all issues that are governed by agreements of this kind", Putin said during the meeting.

A failure to extend the pact would remove all constraints on USA and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, fuelling a post-Cold War arms race and tensions between Moscow and Washington.

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The Trump administration on Friday rejected as a non-starter Russia's stance that a key nuclear arms control treaty be extended without imposing a broader, short-term freeze on USA and Russian nuclear weapons. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Following America's unilateral withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty past year, the 2010 New START agreement remains the only active arms-control deal between the two nuclear powers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to extend New START the full five years permitted under the treaty, without preconditions, and begin work on a follow-on pact. Without an extension, the United States and Russian nuclear arsenals would be unchecked for the first time since 1972. Billingslea has since said the US would agree to a mutual freeze of nuclear arsenals.

AgenciesLavrov's pessimistic view contrasted with statements from US diplomats, who said that Moscow and Washington were close to a deal. But Russia likewise said the proposal was unacceptable.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voiced skepticism about reaching a deal on New START, noting that Russia can't accept the conditions put forward by the US for its extension.

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Lavrov's pessimistic view contrasted with recent statements from USA diplomats, who said that Moscow and Washington were close to a deal.

In Washington, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said in an interview that he hopes Trump accepts Putins offer of a short-term treaty extension without conditions, given the approaching expiration of New START in early February.

Just a few hours later, O'Brien issued a written statement regretting Moscow's position and touting the USA approach, which he said "would have been a win for both sides". "We are at the 11th hour", Kimball said.

"We understand that we have developed new weapons systems that the USA side does not possess, for now, at least".

But tensions rapidly built up again once Putin returned to the presidency from 2012.

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