The U.S. newspaper Politico reported that the White House is considering extending the Russian-American Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms not for five years, as provided by the agreement itself, but for a shorter period. Journalists were told about this on condition of anonymity by current and former US administration officials.
Such a step, according to the publication, will allow President Donald Trump to save face without allowing the treaty to expire without replacement, and at the same time to try to develop a new trilateral arms control agreement with Russia and China. The article discusses the possibility of extending the treaty, for example, for a six-month period. At the same time, John Wolfstall, head of Nuclear Crisis Group, who served as senior director of the U.S. National Security Council for arms control and non-proliferation under Barack Obama’s administration, warns that under this scenario it is not clear whether the treaty can be extended for one or two additional terms to give a total of five years. “Or a six-month extension means we’re burning bridges,” Politico quotes him as saying.
However, the article with reference to sources also refers to the possibility of extending the treaty for one or two years, provided that Russia and China agree to the development of some “gentleman’s agreement”, or principles of interaction in the field of arms control. As a guide, the sources cite the Russian-American Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions of 2002 (“Moscow Treaty”), which was much less formalized than the new one. At the same time, John Wolfstall recalls that until 2009 the first treaty, which set out strict verification measures, was still in force.