President Trump at a press conference on Friday, Sept. 4, informally announced that the United States is negotiating a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with Russia. He also added that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could be included in the talks at some point.
In response to a question from reporters, President Trump said, “We’re right now negotiating a nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which is very important. To me it’s the most important thing. Some people say global warming, I don’t—I say this is far more important.”
According to a report published by Defense News, Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal with 6,300 declared nuclear warheads, the United States ranks second with 5,800 warheads, and is followed in third place, well behind, by the CCP with 320 warheads.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, popularly known as START, was originally signed in 2010 by former President Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It has an expiration date of February 2021 and there is still uncertainty about what policies will be implemented after that date.
As Defense News reported in its 2019 report, START was created out of the original nuclear weapons treaty signed in 1987 by former President Ronald Regan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which marked the end of the long-running Cold War.
Both treaties, with technical differences, have the same theoretical objective: to reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by each country and promote global nuclear nonproliferation.
In October 2018, President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the 1987 treaty, citing Russia’s failure to meet its commitments under the agreement.
As it turned out, President Trump would be willing to renew the START treaty but only on the condition that the CCP adheres to the agreement. But so far, it has flatly rejected all U.S. calls for any kind of nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
As Fox News reported, U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, has been in talks with Russia to negotiate a new agreement. At the same time, President Trump noted in late July that the United States may be moving forward with negotiations with Russia first and the CCP later.
At Friday night’s press conference, President Trump was very optimistic about progress with Russia when he spoke about the possibility of signing a new treaty, “But we are doing very well with Russia on nuclear issues.”
Should the United States fail to make progress on renewing START or signing a new agreement, it would be the first time it has not had a nuclear treaty with Russia since the Cold War.