Friday 10/23/20

US, Russia meet in Helsinki on extending nuclear arms pact

The two powers are discussing the future of the New START treaty.
FILED - 16 January 2014, Finland, Helsinki: A general view of the US flag waving in front of the US embassy in Helsinki. According to Finnish officials, negotiators from Russia and the United States will meet today for a new round of nuclear arms control talks. Photo: Vesa Moilanen/dpa.
The US flag waving in front of the US embassy in Helsinki. Photo: Vesa Moilanen/dpa/File photo.

Negotiators from Russia and the United States met on Monday in Helsinki for a new round of nuclear arms control talks, Finnish officials said.

The two powers are discussing the future of the New START treaty, a pact that limits strategic nuclear weapons and is due to expire in February.

The day-long meeting in Helsinki was led by US Arms Control Envoy Marshall Billingslea and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

There was no immediate word of what the two sides had discussed or if they bad agreed on a new meeting date. 

They recently met in Vienna, while the Finnish capital was the venue for a similar session in 2017.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto held separate meetings with both negotiators after their talks, the president's office said.

"Two interesting discussions. In the current world situation, all dialogue is important, and I welcome its continuation between the United States and Russia," Niinisto said in a statement.

"I wish further progress in agreeing on arms control," he added.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent think tank, the two nuclear heavyweights jointly possess about 90% of the world's nuclear weapons.

12,000 warheads

The institute estimated that the US had 5,800 warheads, while Russia had about 6,375 at the beginning of this year.

Photos posted on Niinisto's official Twitter account showed how the president abd the two chief negotiators wearing face masks as a protective measure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Finland is no stranger to acting as the venue for talks between the US and Russia, having hosted a summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.

Niinisto regularly meets Putin, and he has also met Trump at the White House

In the early 1970s, Finland hosted the Conference on Security and Co-operation (CSCE), which resulted in the 1975 signing of the Helsinki Act.

Signatories included US President Gerald Ford and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who met separately to discuss limiting strategic nuclear arms.

Helsinki was - both in 1985 and 1996 - also a venue for bilateral meetings between foreign ministers of the two nuclear heavyweights.