On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there is hope that Russian and American diplomats could reach an agreement regarding the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), for one year, without any preconditions.
"At least we have a hope that we will be able to talk. Our diplomats and US diplomats. And let's hope that they still reach an agreement that the treaty will be extended for one year. And during this year we have a lot of complex, very difficult attempts to overcome the huge disagreements that exist between the two countries, we have to go through the path of these negotiations," Peskov said.
He clarified that "rather, this is not the hope that the agreement will continue to live, it is the hope that we will be able to try to discuss its further viability."
The treaty, which is the most recent major arms control deal between the US and Russia, is set to expire on 5 February 2021, if not extended by Moscow and Washington.
The Kremlin spokesperson announced that Russian-US expert-level contacts on New START are set to take place in the very next few days.
"There will be very difficult contacts in the coming days at the expert level in order to fix the agreement on the extension. They will talk about the levels, everything, and about freezing," Peskov said.
He noted that, in his opinion, there was no need to go into details about the New START and who understood the words of the Russian president.
"Let's avoid any statements so as not to give ground for misunderstandings. The issue is already extremely complex in terms of a huge number of serious disagreements between Moscow and Washington," he said.
Peskov added that trust between the two world leaders is at a minimal level now.
"Trust is probably at a minimal level now. This is certain. And, of course, it depends on the level and advancement of bilateral relations between our president and his counterpart in other countries. With someone, the dialogue is more frank, more productive, with someone not so", the Kremlin spokesman observed.
Earlier in the day, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, while speaking at the 17th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow, reiterated that Moscow wishes to extend the New START treaty, highlighting that it is in the interest of both Russian and the US.
"What choice do we have? The treaty expires in February. What I have offered is very simple and obvious thing. Nothing bad will happen if we extend this treaty by one year without any preconditions and will persistently raise all matters of concern both for us and the American. Let's work together and search for a solution," Putin said.
At the same time, Putin noted that Russia is "not clinging to this agreement" and if the US decides that there is no need of an extension then "we cannot hold them back".
"Our security — the security of Russia — will not be affected, especially given the fact that we have the most advanced weapons", the Russian president asserted.
On 16 October, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien announced that Putin’s latest proposal to extend the New START treaty for one year without conditions was "a non-starter."
The administration of US President Donald Trump earlier offered a one-year extension, but in exchange for Russia capping the buildup of its nuclear arsenal, which is not covered by the original New START. Another condition introduced by the White House was the mandatory participation of China in the deal. Beijing rejected such a proposal, arguing that its nuclear arsenal is very small in comparison to that of Moscow and Washington.
The Kremlin also rejected the Trump notion for an extension of the nuclear arms reduction agreement, signed between Moscow and Washington in April 2010.