World, Americas

Trump, Putin discuss nuclear pacts: White House

Leaders discuss 'extending the current nuclear agreement,' possible trilateral pact with China, White House says

Michael Hernandez   | 03.05.2019
Trump, Putin discuss nuclear pacts: White House Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President Donald Trump (R)

WASHINGTON 

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour Friday discussing a wide range of issues including nuclear arms control agreements, according to the White House.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the conversation was "very good" and included discussions of trade, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report, North Korea and Venezuela.

Regarding nuclear arms treaties, Sanders said the men addressed the possibility of "extending the current nuclear agreement, as well as discussions about potentially starting a new one that could include China as well." 

Trump later tweeted that he and Putin had "a long and very good conversation."

"As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing," he said. "Very productive talk!" 

Trump unilaterally began the process of formally withdrawing Washington from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, suspending it in February on allegations that Russia is not in compliance, and concerns China is not bound by its constraints on arms development.

The bilateral pact between the U.S. and Russia took effect in 1988, and was intended to mitigate the chances of nuclear war in Europe. 

Trump has reportedly ordered his staff to prepare new arms control treaties with Russia and China.

It is not clear what those efforts will produce, if anything -- either separate bilateral pacts with China and Russia or a trilateral grand agreement. Either option usually takes years to achieve. 

Addressing reporters while hosting Slovak Primer Minister Peter Pellegrini, Trump said Beijing has signaled its interest in a trilateral pact, suggesting the Chinese government may be more interested in the agreement than in a trade agreement currently under discussion.

In explaining his decision to the American people to exit the INF Treaty, Trump hinted he might pursue the latter option.

"Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others," Trump said during his State of the Union address in February. "Or perhaps we can’t — in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far."

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