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Russia, U.S. meet for arms treaty discussions ahead of New START expiration

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces is pictured firing a ground-based Topol missile. Talks to continue the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Russia and the United States began on Monday in Helsinki. Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry
Russia's Strategic Missile Forces is pictured firing a ground-based Topol missile. Talks to continue the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Russia and the United States began on Monday in Helsinki. Photo courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Diplomats from Russia and the United States met on Monday in Helsinki to discuss a replacement for the strategic arms limitations which will expire in February, according to officials.

Chief U.S. arms negotiator Marshall Billingslea met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. They met in Vienna in August, and Monday's discussions are regarded as a continuation of that negotiation.

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Finnish President Sauli Niinisto served as host and moderator, and met separately with each negotiator on Monday morning.

"Two interesting discussions," Niinisto said in a statement. "In the current world situation, all dialogue is important, and welcome its continuation between the United States and Russia. I wish further progress in agreeing on arms control."

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The landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, was agreed to by the United States and Russia in 1991, and was enforced beginning in 1994. It limited the number of bombs and missiles available to each side. The United States has insisted that China should be included in any updated or new arms limitation treaty.

START expired in 2009, with the 2002 Treaty of Moscow replacing it as negotiations for what eventually became New START. New START went into effect in 2011, and its ten-year term will expire in 2021. All three treaties contain similar goals of reducing nuclear weapons held between the two countries.

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"The next treaty will have to be multilateral, it will have to include China, and the framework that we are articulating together as two great powers, us and the Russians, will be the framework going forward that China will be expected to join," Billingslea told reporters in August.

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It is possible that a bilateral deal with Russia can be resolved, with a separate treaty China to be negotiated later. President Donald Trump's administration has recently reduced its demand for China's inclusion, and the tone of the talks suggests the White House is prepared to let the current treaty lapse, experts have said.

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