President Donald Trump's focus on a broadened nuclear pact rather than coming to terms with Russia on the expiring New START Treaty could eventually lead to a new arms race, experts are saying.
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed arms control last weekend, and have until the end of 2020 to deal with the current treaty, which will lapse just after the end of Trump's first term in office, reports NPR.
The president is making it clear that he wants to strike a larger deal that includes China and includes different types of nuclear weapons. He has claimed that China is "extremely excited" about being involved, but Beijing has said publicly it is not interested.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the Trump administration is risking "foreign policy malpractice" by potentially allowing the deal to expire.
"If that treaty is allowed to expire in 2021, there will be no legally binding limits on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, the U.S. and Russia, for the first time in five decades," Kimball said.
However, Tim Morrison, who had been the top Russia staffer on the White House's National Security Council until he resigned a day before testifying in the president's impeachment inquiry, told NPR that there is no reason to rush to extend New START. He also said there is an opportunity to broker a deal that also involves China.
Signing now, he said, would play into Russia's interests, as they are happy with the current deal, and into China's, as they want to keep building weapons.
Former President Barack Obama signed New START in 2010. It caps strategic nuclear warheads for longer-range missiles but does not apply to shorter-range weapons.
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