© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system drives in Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2023. S
By Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday will offer to abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty until its 2026 expiration if Russia does the same, in order to bolster global security, two senior administration officials said.
U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan will make the offer in a speech to the Arms Control Association, the oldest U.S. arms control advocacy group, the officials said on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
Sullivan will say President Joe Biden’s administration is open to resuming unconditional talks with Moscow on managing nuclear dangers, including replacing New START with a new pact, the sources said.
He also will repeat that the U.S. is ready to begin a risk reduction dialogue with China, which is expanding its nuclear arsenal, a call that Beijing so far has rejected amid deep strains with Washington.
“When political relations are at a low, when tensions are high, we find that arms control and nuclear risk reduction to be most important and we would argue that we find ourselves in that moment today,” said one official.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 21 said Moscow was suspending participation in New START, the last remaining pact limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arms.
Putin demanded that Washington end its support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion, and bring France and Britain into arms control talks.
The U.S. government declared Putin’s move “irresponsible and unlawful.”
Signed in 2010 and due to expire in February 2026, New START capped the number of strategic nuclear warheads the sides can deploy at 1,550. It also limits the number of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that can deliver the warheads at 700.
Sullivan, the officials said, will offer U.S. adherence to those limits through the treaty’s expiration if Russia does as well.
He “will discuss the importance of maintaining what we have left of New START, including the need for reciprocity, including the continued adherence to the central numerical limits of the treaty,” said the second official.
While Sullivan will restate an openness to replacing New START, that does not mean with the same curbs and weapons systems, the official continued.
A new pact would have to account for China’s nuclear arms buildup, which the Pentagon says likely will more than triple Beijing’s arsenal to 1,500 warheads by 2035.