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Moscow studying Washington Post information about US proposals on START Treaty — source

Moscow is studying information about the US initiatives on nuclear arms control with the participation of Russia, as well as on the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for another five years that has been published by The Washington Post, a Russian diplomatic source told TASS on Monday.

"We have seen the publication and are now studying its contents", the source said.

According to the Washington Post, US President Barack Obama plans during his final six months in office to put forward a number of nuclear arms control initiatives, including, possibly, offer Russia the extension of the New Start Treaty for another five years. "The Obama administration is determined to use its final six months in office to take a series of executive actions to advance the nuclear agenda the president has advocated since his college days. It's part of Obama's late push to polish a foreign policy legacy that is plagued by challenges on several other fronts," the newspaper writes.

"By focusing on nuclear weapons, Obama sees an opportunity to cement a foreign policy legacy despite setbacks and incomplete efforts in several other areas. But by doing it unilaterally, without congressional buy-in, and in a hurried way, he risks launching policies that might not last much longer than his presidency," the article says.

Several US officials briefed on the options said "they include declaring a "no first use" policy for the United States' nuclear arsenal, which would be a landmark change in the country's nuclear posture. Another option under consideration is seeking a UN Security Council resolution affirming a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. This would be a way to enshrine the United States' pledge not to test without having to seek unlikely Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The administration is also considering offering Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty's limits on deployed nuclear weapons, even though those limits don't expire until 2021. This way, Obama could ensure that the next administration doesn't let the treaty lapse. Some administration officials want to cancel or delay development of a new nuclear cruise missile, called the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, because it is designed for a limited nuclear strike, a capability Obama doesn't believe the United States needs. Some officials want to take most deployed nukes off of "hair trigger" alert," the newspaper writes.

According to The Washington Post, "No final decisions have been made, but Obama is expected to weigh in personally soon."

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said earlier, commenting on the American press publications that Kremlin knew nothing of Barack Obama's intention to extend the New START Treaty. "No, we don't know anything about this," Peskov told reporters.

New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. It was signed on April 8, 2010 in Prague, and, after ratification, entered into force on February 5, 2011. It is expected to last at least until 2021.

New START replaced the Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was due to expire in December 2012. In terms of name, it is a follow-up to the START I treaty, which expired in December 2009, the proposed START II treaty, which never entered into force, and the START III treaty, for which negotiations were never concluded. Under terms of the treaty, the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers will be reduced by half. A new inspection and verification regime will be established, replacing the SORT mechanism. It does not limit the number of operationally inactive stockpiled nuclear warheads that remain in both the Russian and American inventories.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 11Jul16]

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