Saturday, October 31, 2020

Moscow Much Divided Over When and How to Extend Nuclear Deal with US, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 29 – Moscow has been divided about when and how to seek an extension of the START-3 Treaty, Kseniya Kirillova says, with some officials believing Moscow should do so before to help Donald Trump and others convinced that the pandemic renders such a gift irrelevant and that the Russian side will find it more useful to raise the issue later. 

            Moscow would like to influence the outcome of the American elections this time just as much as last, the US-based Russian journalist says; but this time, its influence has been reduced by the spread of the pandemic (

            Most Americans are focused so much on the pandemic, the restrictions on their lives that have been imposed, and the economic consequences of the illness that they are not paying a great deal of attention to other issues, including scandals and countercharges between the candidates, led alone foreign policy questions like START-3.

            Consequently, most Russian analysts, at least those who write in public, have been suggesting that offering a deal on START to the US, especially given Washington’s response to earlier feelers, will do little to help Trump and that Moscow would be better advised to wait and use the possibility of negotiations with a new administration.

            Others, cognizant that Americans very much fear a nuclear war, continue to believe that such an offer would be useful to its interests because Trump might seek an agreement to boost his prospects, although they know that he is limited in his ability to do so during the campaign lest he look “soft on Russia.”

            But the possibility that such an accord will affect the elections appears to have faded as the primary concern Moscow has about timing. Instead, Kirillova says, the Russian side wants to position itself so that it will achieve more of its goals and thus there are even more Russian analysts arguing for a delay.

            As security analyst Yevgeny Krutikov writes in Moscow’s Vzglyad newspaper, “the Russia side is interested not so much in how many new bombs and short and medium range rockets can be built as in the fate of American ‘models’ already positioned in Western Europe” (

            Trump can’t easily make any concessions on that point before the elections, and so, Kirillova says, Moscow analysts believe that playing the START card will be far more effective after the elections, regardless of whether Trump survives in office or Joe Biden replaces him as president.


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