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Russia, US looking into new nuclear talks

June 29, 2019

American and Russian diplomats are preparing the ground for possible nuclear disarmament talks, Russia's Vladimir Putin has said at a G20 summit in Osaka. The two sides suspended the key INF treaty earlier this year.

Replica of the first Soviet nuclear bomb
Image: picture-alliance/ITAR-TASS/A. Geodakyan

Moscow and Washington are mulling new talks on limiting their nuclear arsenals, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on Saturday.

Putin was commenting on his meeting with US President Donald Trump the day before, most of which took place behind closed doors.

"We have tasked our respective foreign minister to start lower-level talks on [nuclear disarmament]," Putin said.

Putin and Trump shake hands in Osaka
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Walsh

The talks, according to Putin's comments carried by the Russian Interfax news agency, would be related to extending the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which went into force in 2011 after talks between Trump's predecessor Barack Obama and Russia's then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

Fears of restarting nuclear race

The New START limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads ready to use on intercontinental missiles and heavy bomber bases to 1,550. The treaty also imposes various other restrictions to US and Russian nuclear capabilities. It is set to expire in 2021.

According to 2019 data provided by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, both the US and Russia currently have about 1,600 deployed strategic nuclear heads at their disposal. Russia has a total of 6,500 nuclear warheads, compared to 6,185 on the US side.

Russia's Putin has repeatedly warned that the New START expiry date could signal a new nuclear arms race.

INF on the brink

On Saturday, he refused to give a timeline for the talks and said it was "too early to talk about" the likelihood of getting to an agreement.

Putin's remarks come after the US accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by developing a new missile system.

The document, signed in 1987 between the US and the now defunct Soviet Union, prohibits the possessing and testing of short- and medium-range nuclear weapons.

Both Russia and the US have since suspended their participation in the accord. The US has pledged to pull out of the agreement if Russia is not in compliance by August 2 this year.

dj/bw (AFP, dpa)

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