Trump to Putin: Hope to Avoid a Three Way Arms Race Between China, Russia, and US

July 23, 2020 Updated: July 23, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed arms control during a phone call between the two leaders Thursday, the Kremlin and White House said.

“The two leaders also discussed critical bilateral and global issues. President Trump reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia, and the United States and looked forward to progress on upcoming arms control negotiations in Vienna,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

The Kremlin’s readout of the call said the parties reaffirmed “the timeliness of bilateral consultations” on arms control issues, including the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The two leaders also expressed a mutual desire to develop trade and economic interaction between Russia and the United States, the Kremlin added, according to Reuters.

Nuclear Arms Control Talks Fail to Draw China

Marshal Billingslea new START Talks Vienna
Marshal Billingslea, U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control on talks with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on nuclear arms control, informs the press in Vienna, Austria, on June 23, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP Photo)

The United States and Russia held nuclear arms control talks on June 22 in Vienna, aimed at producing a new agreement to replace the New START treaty that expires soon—the last remaining pact constraining the arsenals of the world’s two major nuclear powers.

The only U.S.–Russia nuclear arms control agreement still in force and binding the two countries is the New START Treaty, which was signed in 2010 and is set to expire in February 2021. The treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons that each country can deploy.

China was also invited to join the talks, but it declined the invitation, U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea said.

Russia and the United States together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s total nuclear warheads in 2020, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which tallied 6,372 warheads for Russia and 5,800 for the United States. It counted China as having 320 nuclear warheads, although the actual number is unknown.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 2 endorsed Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, which allows the country to use atomic weapons, not only in response to a nuclear attack but also to respond to conventional strikes targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.