The United States and Russia are “on the verge” of agreeing to extend existing nuclear treaties and freeze the number of warheads on both sides, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Tuesday.
The potential deal comes after Russian diplomats offered the extension of the existing New START nuclear treaty first signed in 2010 under former President Barack Obama. The deal is scheduled to expire February 2021, unless Russia and the Trump administration come to an extension agreement. The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that such an agreement is likely, according to the Washington Post.
— Frances Townsend (@FranTownsend) October 20, 2020
“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement to reporters, per the Post. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.”
The offer from Russian negotiators comes after President Donald Trump’s administration rejected the previous offer on Friday, which featured only an extension of the New START deal. U.S. negotiators said a freeze on existing nuclear warhead numbers was a non-negotiable feature of any potential deal, and it now appears Russia is willing to accept those terms. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia Allows Flights To And From UAE To Pass Through Its Airspace, Including Israeli Flights)
In addition to the New START extension, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it is ready “to assume a political obligation on freezing a number of the nuclear warheads possessed by the parties for this period,” according to the Post.
“This item can be put into effect strictly and exclusively with the understanding that the freezing of warheads would not involve any extra requirements on the part of the U.S.,” the ministry statement continued.
The news comes on the heels of a series of foreign policy wins for the Trump administration, which has recently seen success in brokering peace agreements between Israel and various Arab Middle Eastern nations.
Trump hosted representatives from Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House in mid-September to sign the Abraham Accords, which normalize diplomatic relations between the predominantly Muslim countries and the Jewish state. The Trump administration says it expects several other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, to join the treaty.