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It comes amid ongoing negotiations to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which expires in February next year. The treaty, which was signed between the two countries in 2011, aims to reduce the number of offensive arms the nations have in deployment.
According to the claims of three people familiar with the discussions, published by Politico, the most recent move by the US military – ordered by the Trump administration – is an effort to show Russia it is serious about the negotiations.
Sources close to the matter told the news outlet the US is “trying to create an incentive” to get Russia to come to the table.
They added officials are concerned Russia is purposefully delaying the talks in the hope Donald Trump will be voted out of office before a deal is reached.
They say Joe Biden, who is the US president’s main opponent in the upcoming US elections this November, would offer Moscow better terms.
Experts have warned the Trump administration’s approach could backfire by encouraging Russia to build up its own nuclear arsenal.
The New START treaty sets limits on how many intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable bombers each country may have.
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According to the US Department of State, this includes 1,550 nuclear warheads deployed, as well as a maximum of 800 strategic missiles and heavy bombers.
It also allows 18 inspections to be carried out at military sites every year to ensure the limits are being adhered to.
This year so far, both countries have conducted just two inspections each.
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The treaty expires next year – ten years from when it was first signed into action. However, it may only be extended for half that time.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, both sides have managed to oversee a cut in the number of deployed offensive weapons covered by the treaty since its signing.
Combined, both the US and Russia have gotten rid of 435 strategic launchers and 638 deployed warheads.
Recent numbers are more modest. The FAS adds both countries cut just three strategic launchers between them, when the latest data is compared to that of September 2019.
In addition, both countries are thought to have around 8,110 remaining warheads between them in their nuclear stockpiles.
Under Donald Trump’s leadership, the US has pulled out of another key nuclear weapons agreement with Russia.
In August 2019, the US withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the INF.
That deal, which was signed in 1987 by then-US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, placed a ban on missiles capable of any range between 310 and 3,400 miles.
The US accused Russia of breaking the terms of the agreement by deploying multiple 9M729 missiles, which Moscow denied.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia of being “solely responsible” for the Treaty’s cancellation.
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