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Like Eisenhower, Trump must forge ahead on path toward peace with Russia

Despite setbacks and obstacles, there remains no survivable alternative to dialogue between Washington and Moscow




(The National Interest) – On the Washington Post op-ed page in October 2017, Mikhail Gorbachev urged “reversing the downward spiral in U.S.-Russian relations” that now dangerously imperils world order. He entreated our leaders “to return to sanity” and initiate a “full-scale summit on the entire range of issues,” focusing especially on controlling weapons of mass destruction.

Gorbachev’s clarion call harkened to a very similar plea by President Dwight D. Eisenhower almost sixty-five years ago when U.S. relations with the USSR were even more fraught with danger than they are today with Russia. In a remarkable speech titled The Chance for Peace, which he delivered on April 16, 1953, six weeks after Stalin’s death, Eisenhower urged the two superpowers to radically change direction. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired,” Eisenhower declared, “signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” He advocated a reduction in “the burden of armaments now weighing upon the world,” and offered to negotiate with the Soviet Union over the size of both countries’ military forces. For Eisenhower, “this [current massing of armaments] was not a way of life at all” and he challenged the Kremlin to wage “a new kind of war, . . . a total war, not upon any human enemy, but upon the brute forces of poverty and need.”

The historic context in which this speech was delivered made this a true act of political courage. McCarthyism was assuming increasing virulence, the Soviet Union’s repressive domination of Eastern Europe was at its height, and Cold War tensions remained very high, with the Korean War still ongoing. As noted by scholar Joshua Rubenstein in his book, The Last Days of Stalin, “[f]or many of Eisenhower’s admirers this speech remains among his most politically significant, ‘certainly one of the highlights of his presidency,’[quoting a top aide]. . .The American press responded [to Eisenhower’s proposals] with deep enthusiasm. Newsweek said that it ‘lifted hearts in the entire free world.’” (pages 173–74)

Like Eisenhower six decades earlier, President Trump also advocated during his campaign that this nation should adopt an entirely new approach to Russia. Citing the trillions of dollars expended in the Iraqi war and other foreign initiatives, President Trump argued that the U.S. should jettison the foreign policy of his predecessors which so antagonized President Putin and his cohorts. Instead, monies devoted to wasteful wars and attempts at regime changes should be redirected to U.S. domestic needs, including modernizing infrastructure and assisting U.S. workers adjust to new economic realities. Indeed, when candidate Trump became president-elect last November, many hoped for the emergence of a new, constructive and amicable relationship with Putin’s Russia.

Sadly, as the first anniversary of his election approaches, relations with Russia continue to deteriorate and no near term improvements appear possible. In the view of many, the July vote in Congress (419 to 3 in the House and 98 to 2 in the Senate), stripping President Trump of discretion to reduce sanctions against Russia, effectively freezes the U.S.-Russian relationship. There is the real possibility that the United States will only regain the ability to reverse the current debilitating “downward spiral,” as Gorbachev wrote, when the Department of Justice concludes its inquiry; and even then, only if Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation vindicates President Trump of complicity with Russian operatives or of any other alleged illegality relating to Russia. The resulting paralysis in the relationship could last for many more months, if not years.

We believe that such a stalemate must be avoided at all costs, and is not preordained. There is too much to lose by failing to address the consequences of a continuing drift in U.S.-Russian relations, allowing menacing problems to fester. These include: the real potential for accidental war inadvertently triggered by the lack of effective government-to-government dialogues at military and civilian levels, with catastrophic results; military confrontations in Ukraine involving the U.S. or its allies, with unforeseen escalations; destabilizing measures by Russia to further lower the threshold of its own planned use of nuclear weapons; and a host of other very significant matters that require priority attention. Even entirely peaceful collaborations may fall by the wayside, as evidenced by the Russian Duma’s recent threat to prohibit the United States from accessing the International Space Station on Russian space vehicles, the only means now available to do so.

The following path is offered as a way out of the present—and very ominous—impasse:

First, the White House should actively and creatively reach out to congressional leaders of both parties and forge a consensus on proposals to be advanced in negotiations with President Putin. The distrust that now exists in Washington can be assuaged, at least in part, by means of a jointly conceived program for approaching the Russians. From the perspective of the United States, the various parties are generally on the same page respecting U.S. objectives—or can be led to that point—on most of the substantive issues to be resolved.

Second, President Trump should publicly announce an overarching vision for our relationship with Russia, incorporating many elements of President Eisenhower’s courageous “Chance for Peace” speech. “Turning swords into plowshares” themes may serve to unify, and even excite, the disparate, and deeply divided, elements of American society. Liberal Democrats, traditional Republicans, and evangelical supporters of President Trump will likely find inspiration in Eisenhower’s stirring rhetoric of the 1950s, as adapted to current circumstances. Announcing such a policy can be anticipated to “lift hearts in the entire free world.”

Bold steps such as these have been taken by President Trump’s predecessors in dramatically changing our relationship with Russia, even when mutual mistrust was at a high level, and have achieved considerable successes. In 1972, President Nixon led the way in reducing nuclear arsenals through the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement of 1972. This was accompanied by the landmark U.S.-Soviet Trade Agreement and the creation of a Joint Commercial Commission, both of which ushered in a new era of economic cooperation. After President Reagan’s groundbreaking meetings with Gorbachev in Geneva and Reykjavik, a momentous treaty was signed in 1987 to eliminate intermediate and shorter-range missiles. This was followed during the first Bush, Clinton, second Bush and Obama administrations by treaties to impose further and very substantial limitations on both countries’ nuclear arsenals. As highlighted by President Eisenhower, who worked with the USSR as an ally in World War II when our soldiers met as “triumphant comrades in arms,” both Russia and America have everything to gain by redirecting resources to peaceful purposes, and joining together “to turn the black tide of [current] events. If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages would be harsh and just.”

Third, Gorbachev’s call for a summit between the United States and Russia should be seriously pursued, and the scope should be broadened to encompass major issues now burdening the relationship. Gorbachev recognized: “It will not be easy to cut through the logjam of issues on both sides. But neither was our dialogue easy three decades ago. It has its critics and detractors, who tried to derail it.” The agenda should include efforts to resolve the 2014 Ukrainian and Crimean crises, as well as newly injected concerns arising from Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral process.

Fourth, shortly after President Trump was elected, the authors of this article set forth specific proposals on how to resolve, or at least contain, the Ukrainian and Crimean problems. Those proposals still remain quite viable, in our view, and merit further review. The essential features were: (a) that Russia and the West “agree to disagree” for the indefinite future on the diplomatic status of Crimea; this was the essential status accorded to the Baltic States from 1940 through the demise of the USSR, and permitted peaceful coexistence throughout the Cold War era; (b) that the status quo in Donbas as part of Ukraine continue, with an effectively enforced ceasefire; and (c) that a multibillion dollar aid package be assembled from international sources directed to economic recovery in Ukraine.

Fifth, as part of the summit between Presidents Trump and Putin, a full and frank exchange on Russian involvement in U.S. domestic elections must be addressed. Rules should be adopted to avoid undue interference in the internal affairs of each country, with reciprocity and preservation of the integrity of each country’s body politic as the agreed-upon objective.

In approaching this issue, which has destabilized the relationship so bitterly in the post-election period, the United States must maintain a proper perspective. In the past, both the United States and Russia have interfered covertly, and sometimes publicly, in the political affairs of other nations when they deemed strategic interests were at stake. In that regard, the United States has expended billions of dollars since the collapse of the Soviet Union in assisting a network of nongovernment organizations in Russia in promoting freedom of press and speech, religious tolerance, an independent judiciary, absence of corruption, and other values long prized in Western societies. Americans viewed such involvement as benign, motivated by humanitarian concerns. However, fostering such democratic values in Russia has not always been welcomed by many quarters within the Russian establishment, who attribute malign motives to the United States, including intrusive meddling in Russia’s internal affairs and suspicions of regime change. As Graham Allison and Dimitri Simes noted in their analysis, which was published in the National Interest, as “a recent superpower still nostalgic for its past glory, Russia is particularly sensitive to efforts to shape its domestic process.”

Gorbachev also noted in his recent op-ed piece that when “[r]elations between the two nations are in a severe crisis . . . there is one well-tested means available for accomplishing a [way out]”—that is, to initiate “a dialogue based on mutual respect.” President Eisenhower similarly observed: “none of these issues, great or small” separating the United States and Russia “is insoluble.” “[T]he hunger for peace is in the hearts of all peoples—those of Russia . . . no less than of our own country.”

President Trump and President Putin now confront the challenge to heed these words and to lead their nations—and the world—to a better place.

by Jeffrey Burt, James Hitch, Peter Pettibone and Thomas Shillinglaw

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High-ranking Ukrainian official reports on US interference in Ukraine

It is not usually the case that an American media outlet tells the truth about Ukraine, but it appears to have happened here.

Seraphim Hanisch



The Hill committed what may well have been a random act of journalism when it reported that Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko, told’s reporter John Solomon that the American ambassador to that country, Marie Yovanovitch, gave him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting.

Normally, all things Russia are covered by the American press as “bad”, and all things Ukraine are covered by the same as “good.” Yet this report reveals quite a bit about the nature of the deeply embedded US interests that are involved in Ukraine, and which also attempt to control and manipulate policy in the former Soviet republic.

The Hill’s piece continues (with our added emphases):

“Unfortunately, from the first meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, [Yovanovitch] gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko, who took his post in 2016, told Hill.TV last week.

“My response of that is it is inadmissible. Nobody in this country, neither our president nor our parliament nor our ambassador, will stop me from prosecuting whether there is a crime,” he continued.

Indeed, the Prosecutor General appears to be a man of some principles. When this report was brought to the attention of the US State Department, the response was predictable:

The State Department called Lutsenko’s claim of receiving a do not prosecute list, “an outright fabrication.” 

“We have seen reports of the allegations,” a department spokesperson told Hill.TV. “The United States is not currently providing any assistance to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), but did previously attempt to support fundamental justice sector reform, including in the PGO, in the aftermath of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. When the political will for genuine reform by successive Prosecutors General proved lacking, we exercised our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer and redirected assistance to more productive projects.”

This is an amazing statement in itself. “Our fiduciary responsibility to the American taxpayer”? Are Americans even aware that their country is spending their tax dollars in an effort to manipulate a foreign government in what can probably well be called a low-grade proxy war with the Russian Federation? Again, this appears to be a slip, as most American media do a fair job of maintaining the narrative that Ukraine is completely independent and that its actions regarding the United States and Russia are taken in complete freedom.

Hill.TV has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine for comment.

Lutsenko also said that he has not received funds amounting to nearly $4 million that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine was supposed to allocate to his office, saying that “the situation was actually rather strange” and pointing to the fact that the funds were designated, but “never received.”

“At that time we had a case for the embezzlement of the U.S. government technical assistance worth 4 million U.S. dollars, and in that regard, we had this dialogue,” he said. “At that time, [Yovanovitch] thought that our interviews of Ukrainian citizens, of Ukrainian civil servants, who were frequent visitors of the U.S. Embassy put a shadow on that anti-corruption policy.”

“Actually, we got the letter from the U.S. Embassy, from the ambassador, that the money that we are speaking about [was] under full control of the U.S. Embassy, and that the U.S. Embassy did not require our legal assessment of these facts,” he said. “The situation was actually rather strange because the funds we are talking about were designated for the prosecutor general’s office also and we told [them] we have never seen those, and the U.S. Embassy replied there was no problem.”

“The portion of the funds, namely 4.4 million U.S. dollars were designated and were foreseen for the recipient Prosecutor General’s office. But we have never received it,” he said.

Yovanovitch previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Armenia under former presidents Obama and George W. Bush, as well as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan under Bush. She also served as ambassador to Ukraine under Obama.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who was at the time House Rules Committee chairman, voiced concerns about Yovanovitch in a letter to the State Department last year in which he said he had proof the ambassador had spoken of her “disdain” for the Trump administration.

This last sentence may be a way to try to narrow the scope of American interference in Ukraine down to the shenanigans of just a single person with a personal agenda. However, many who have followed the story of Ukraine and its surge in anti-Russian rhetoric, neo-Naziism, ultra-nationalism, and the most recent events surrounding the creation of a pseudo-Orthodox “church” full of Ukrainian nationalists and atheists as a vehicle to import “Western values” into a still extremely traditional and Christian land, know that there are fingerprints of the United States “deep state” embeds all over this situation.

It is somewhat surprising that so much that reveals the problem showed up in just one report. It will be interesting to see if this gets any follow-up in the US press.

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President Putin signs law blocking fake news, but the West makes more

Western media slams President Putin and his fake news law, accusing him of censorship, but an actual look at the law reveals some wisdom.

Seraphim Hanisch



The TASS Russian News Agency reported on March 18th that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law intended to block distorted or untrue information being reported as news. Promptly after he did so, Western news organizations began their attempt to “spin” this event as some sort of proof of “state censorship” in the oppressive sense of the old Soviet Union. In other words, a law designed to prevent fake news was used to create more fake news.

One of the lead publications is a news site that is itself ostensibly a “fake news” site. The Moscow Times tries to portray itself as a Russian publication that is conducted from within Russian borders. However, this site and paper is really a Western publication, run by a Dutch foundation located in the Netherlands. As such, the paper and the website associated have a distinctly pro-West slant in their reporting. Even Wikipedia noted this with this comment from their entry about the publication:

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis, The Moscow Times was criticized by a number of journalists including Izvestia columnist Israel Shamir, who in December 2014 called it a “militant anti-Putin paper, a digest of the Western press with extreme bias in covering events in Russia”.[3] In October 2014 The Moscow Times made the decision to suspend online comments after an increase in offensive comments. The paper said it disabled comments for two reasons—it was an inconvenience for its readers as well as being a legal liability, because under Russian law websites are liable for all content, including user-generated content like comments.[14]

This bias is still notably present in what is left of the publication, which is now an online-only news source. This is some of what The Moscow Times had to say about the new fake news legislation:

The bills amending existing information laws overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Russian parliament in less than two months. Observers and some lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its vague language and potential to stifle free speech.

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

As is the case with other Russian laws, the fines are calculated based on whether the offender is a citizen, an official or a legal entity.

More than 100 journalists and public figures, including human rights activist Zoya Svetova and popular writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, signed a petition opposing the laws, which they labeled “direct censorship.”

This piece does give a bit of explanation from Dmitry Peskov, showing that European countries also have strict laws governing fake news distribution. However, the Times made the point of pointing out the idea of “insulting governmental bodies of Russia… including Putin” to bolster their claim that this law amounts to real censorship of the press. It developed its point of view based on a very short article from Reuters which says even less about the legislation and how it works.

However, TASS goes into rather exhaustive detail about this law, and it also gives rather precise wording on the reason for the law’s passage, as well as how it is to be enforced. We include most of this text here, with emphases added:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on blocking untrue and distorting information (fake news). The document was posted on the government’s legal information web portal.

The document supplements the list of information, the access to which may be restricted on the demand by Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies. In particular, it imposes a ban on “untrue publicly significant information disseminated in the media and in the Internet under the guise of true reports, which creates a threat to the life and (or) the health of citizens, property, a threat of the mass violation of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of impeding or halting the functioning of vital infrastructural facilities, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy, industrial or communications facilities.”

Pursuant to the document, in case of finding such materials in Internet resources registered in accordance with the Russian law on the mass media as an online media resource, Russia’s Prosecutor General or his deputies will request the media watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the corresponding websites.

Based on this request, Roskomnadzor will immediately notify the editorial board of the online media resource, which is in violation of the legislation, about the need to remove untrue information and the media resource will be required to delete such materials immediately. If the editorial board fails to take the necessary measures, Roskomnadzor will send communications operators “a demand to take measures to restrict access to the online resource.”

In case of deleting such untrue information, the website owner will notify Roskomnadzor thereof, following which the media watchdog will “hold a check into the authenticity of this notice” and immediately inform the communications operator about the resumption of the access to the information resource.
The conditions for the law are very specific, as are the penalties for breaking it. TASS continued:

Liability for breaching the law

Simultaneously, the Federation Council approved the associated law with amendments to Russia’s Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates liability in the form of penalties of up to 1.5 million rubles (around $23,000) for the spread of untrue and distorting information.

The Code’s new article, “The Abuse of the Freedom of Mass Information,” stipulates liability for disseminating “deliberately untrue publicly significant information” in the media or in the Internet. The penalty will range from 30,000 rubles ($450) to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for citizens, from 60,000 rubles ($915) to 200,000 rubles ($3,040) for officials and from 200,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($7,620) for corporate entities with the possible confiscation of the subject of the administrative offence.

Another element of offence imposes tighter liability for the cases when the publication of false publicly significant information has resulted in the deaths of people, has caused damage to the health or property, prompted the mass violation of public order and security or has caused disruption to the functioning of transport or social infrastructure facilities, communications, energy and industrial facilities and banks. In such instances, the fines will range from 300,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles ($6,090) for citizens, from 600,000 rubles to 900,000 rubles ($13,720) for officials, and from 1 million rubles to 1.5 million rubles for corporate entities.

While this legislation can be spun (and is) in the West as anti-free speech, one may also consider the damage that has taken place in the American government through a relentless attack of fake news from most US news outlets against President Trump. One of the most notable effects of this barrage has been to further degrade and destroy the US’ relationship with the Russian Federation, because even the Helsinki Summit was attacked so badly that the two leaders have not been able to get a second summit together.

While it is certainly a valued right of the American press to be unfettered by Congress, and while it is also certainly vital to criticize improper practices by government officials, the American news agencies have gone far past that, to deliberately dishonest attacks, based in innuendo and everything possible that was formerly only the province of gossip tabloid publications. The effort has been to defame the President, not to give proper or due criticism to his policies, nor credit. It can be properly stated that the American press has abused its freedom of late.

This level of abuse drew a very unusual comment from the US president, who wondered on Twitter about the possibility of creating a state-run media center in the US to counter fake news:

Politically correct for US audiences? No. But an astute point?


Freedom in anything also presumes that those with that freedom respect it, and further, that they respect and apply the principle that slandering people and institutions for one’s own personal, business or political gain is wrong. Implied in the US Constitution’s protection of the press is the notion that the press itself, as the rest of the country, is accountable to a much Higher Authority than the State. But when that Authority is rejected, as so much present evidence suggests, then freedom becomes the freedom to misbehave and to agitate. It appears largely within this context that the Russian law exists, based on the text given.

Further, by hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook, rather than prison sentences, the law appears to be very smart in its message: “Do not lie. If you do, you will suffer where it counts most.”

Considering that news media’s purpose is to make money, this may actually be a very smart piece of legislation.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch



TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.




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