Major nuclear treaties between the US and Russia. — AFP/VNA Photo
VIENNA — The United States and Russia meet Monday in Vienna for talks on their last major nuclear weapons agreement against a backdrop of growing tensions and differences over whether they see any value in arms control at all.
US President Donald Trump insists that China should be involved in the talks on New START, the treaty that caps US and Russian nuclear warheads, because he says up until now Beijing has had a free pass to do as it likes in developing its weapon systems.
China has shown no sign of being interested, giving Washington fresh cause for complaint, although critics say Washington finds that a useful stick with which to beat its growing rival.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said the insistence on including China showed the Trump administration was not serious about an accord.
"The only conclusion I can come to is that... the Trump administration (does) not intend to extend New START and is seeking to display China's disinterest in trilateral arms control talks as a cynical excuse to allow New START to expire," Kimball said.
Trump has already scrapped several treaties with Russia – on overflights and on intermediate-range nuclear forces.
US ambassador Marshall Billingslea and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov are nonetheless to discuss the future of the New START treaty, which was agreed in 2010 and expires in February 2021.
That leaves very little time to renew a complex deal, let alone negotiate a new treaty involving China, especially with a November presidential election looming.
The current treaty limits each side to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. — AFP