United States

U.S. Seeks Broader Nuclear Arms Pact

President Donald Trump has ordered his staff to seek a new agreement on nuclear weapons that would encompass all Russian and Chinese nuclear arms, senior administration officials told reporters in April. Currently, the United States and Russia abide by the bilateral 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that limits only deployed strategic weapons and does not involve China. The treaty is due to expire in February 2021, but the pact allows the two sides to extend it for up to five years.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (center), speaking here at January conference in Beijing, suggested in April that any future U.S.-Russian arms control talks would need to address a variety of previously unnegotiated issues. (Photo: Thomas Peter/Getty Images)“The president has made clear that he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles,” said a senior White House official on April 25. “We have an ambition to give the president options as quickly as possible to give him as much space on the calendar as possible.”

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, suggested Moscow’s response would depend on the nature of any U.S. proposals. “Further steps towards nuclear disarmament will require creating a number of prerequisites and taking into account many factors that have a direct impact on strategic stability” including missile defense systems, cyber weapons, weapons development in space, and advanced conventional arms, he said in an April 26 news briefing.

The Trump administration has shown no indication that it would be willing to limit these weapons in an agreement with Russia and China. Even if it were willing to do so, it is highly unlikely an agreement could be reached before New START expires in less than two years.

The president’s new order followed his April 4 comments at the White House, while sitting next to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, on the need for the United States, Russia, and China to reduce the numbers of and spending on nuclear weapons.

Read more at Arms Control Association

About the author

Kingston Reif and Shervin Taheran

Kingston A. Reif is the Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, where his work focuses on nuclear disarmament, deterrence, and arms control, preventing nuclear terrorism, missile defense, and the defense budget. Reif is an expert on the legislative process and closely monitors Congressional action on these issues. Shervin Taheran is a Research Assistant with the Arms Control Association. She is responsible for research and analysis, reporting for Arms Control Today, and writing and updating Arms Control Association online information resources. Shervin also co-coordinates the ACA-Lugar Center Bipartisan Congressional Nuclear Policy Dialogue Project. She is the staff lead for the Arms Control Association’s Project for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and is a member of the coordination team for the CTBT Organization Youth Group.