The US and Russia have rejected each other's proposals for potentially salvaging the last remaining legal constraint on their strategic nuclear forces. President Vladimir Putin called for an unconditional extension of the soon-to-expire New START treaty, and the White House called that a non-starter. Adding an edginess to the diplomatic clash, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, suggested the Russians rethink their stance before a costly arms race ensues.Administration officials have previously alluded to building up nuclear forces if the treaty is abandoned, although the Pentagon has its hands full paying for a one-for-one replacement of older nuclear weapons.President Putin's response to extend New START without freezing nuclear warheads is a non-starter, O'Brien said. O'Brien also observed that "it may be that, like other countries, the Russians are waiting to see what happens in the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
The Trump administration recently proposed a one-year extension of the 2010 treaty, which is set to expire in February 2021, but it said this must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. The cap would cover warheads not limited by the New START treaty. Putin said Friday a one-year extension was okay but should not be conditioned on a wider cap on warheads.Democrat Joe Biden, who was vice president when New START was negotiated during the Obama administration and ratified by the Senate, has said he would not hesitate to agree to Putin's original proposal for a five-year extension of New START. That would be followed by negotiation of a follow-on deal.