Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian legislature’s international affairs committee, said Mr Putin’s proposal would take the pressure off for a deal before the deal expires and decouple arms talks from politics pre-election in the United States.
The Trump administration has been reluctant to agree to a five-year extension without revisions, an option that would not require Senate approval. Mr Trump found this unacceptable because the treaty signed by President Obama did not cover all of Russia’s nuclear weapons, nor any of those of China.
China, however, has refused to join any revised version of New Start, arguing that its nuclear arsenal is tiny compared to those of the United States or Russia.
Although keen to save New Start, Russia has shown little interest in giving President Trump a foreign policy victory ahead of a presidential election in the United States in less than three weeks, possibly indicating that it expects for Mr. Biden to win. This week, senior Russian officials scorned claims by Trump’s chief negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, of a “tentative deal, at the highest levels of our two governments, to extend the treaty.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov dismissed this as a fantasy. “Washington describes what is desired, not what is real,” Ryabkov, Russia’s chief negotiator, said in a statement.
Russia’s open mockery of the supposed deal, however, left Moscow looking rude and risked undermining Mr Putin’s long-standing efforts to portray his country as deeply committed to arms control – unlike in the United States, which has abandoned a number of agreements in the past.
Mr Putin’s proposal on Friday, said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and veteran foreign policy analyst, suggested an attempt to correct any damage to Russia’s image caused by this week’s conflict, more than ‘an offer with a real chance of being accepted.