Russia ready for quick extension of last arms pact with US

In this handout photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Lavrov said Monday the stream of reactions to Navalny's arrest by Western officials reflects an attempt "to divert attention from the crisis of the Western model of development." "Navalny's case has received a foreign policy dimension artificially and without any foundation," Lavrov said, arguing that his detention was a prerogative of Russian law enforcement agencies that explained their action. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP) (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service)

MOSCOW – Moscow is ready for a quick deal with the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to extend the last remaining arms control pact, which expires in just over two weeks, Russia's top diplomat said Monday.

Months of talks between Russia and President Donald Trump's administration on the possible extension of the New START treaty have failed to narrow their differences. The pact is set to expire on Feb. 5.

Biden has spoken in favor of the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president, and Russia has said it’s open for its quick and unconditional extension.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference Monday that Moscow is ready to move quickly to keep the pact alive.

“The most important priority is the absolutely abnormal situation in the sphere of arms control,” Lavrov said. “We have heard about the Biden administration’s intention to resume a dialogue on this issue and try to agree on the New START treaty's extension before it expires on Feb. 5. We are waiting for specific proposals, our stance is well-known."

New START envisages the possibility of its extension for another five years, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow is ready to do so without any conditions. The Kremlin also has voiced readiness to prolong the pact for a shorter term, as Trump's administration had pondered.

The talks on the treaty's extension have been clouded by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants. Sunday's arrest of leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny in Moscow after his return from Germany where he was recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin will further cloud Russia-U.S. ties.

Biden’s pick for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called on Russian authorities to free Navalny.