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White House rejects Putin response to US arms control offer

O’Brien also observed that “it may be that, like other countries, the Russians are waiting to see what happens in the Nov. 3 U.S. election.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Washington, Oct 18 : The US and Russia on Friday rejected each other’s proposals for potentially salvaging the last remaining legal constraint on their strategic nuclear forces.

President Vladimir Putin called for an unconditional extension of the soon-to-expire New START treaty, and the White House called that a non-starter. Adding an edginess to the diplomatic clash, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, suggested the Russians rethink their stance before a costly arms race ensues.

Administration officials have previously alluded to building up nuclear forces if the treaty is abandoned, although the Pentagon has its hands full paying for a one-for-one replacement of older nuclear weapons.

In the closing days of his reelection bid, Trump has looked for ways to boost his foreign policy record, and although he says he favours nuclear arms control, he has called New START flawed and unfavourable to the U.S. Last year he withdrew the U.S. from a separate nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and he waited until this year to begin engaging the Russians on the future of the New START deal.

Democrat Joe Biden, who was vice president when New START was negotiated during the Obama administration and ratified by the Senate, has said he would not hesitate to agree to Putin’s original proposal for a five-year extension of New START. That would be followed by negotiation of a follow-on deal.

The Trump administration recently proposed a one-year extension of the 2010 treaty, which is set to expire in February 2021, but it said this must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. The cap would cover warheads not limited by the New START treaty. Putin said Friday a one-year extension was okay but should not be conditioned on a wider cap on warheads.

Trump’s lead arms control negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, blamed the Russians for missing what he called an historic opportunity.

The United States made every effort, he wrote on Twitter Friday, but the Russians backtracked on an agreement to cap the number of nuclear warheads of all kinds. Russian officials have denied they made any such agreement.

The Trump administration’s talk of a cap, or freeze, on all categories of warheads has puzzled some U.S. analysts, in part because the number of those weapons has held steady over the past decade or so. William J. Perry, who served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, said Thursday, prior to Putin’s latest remarks, that the U.S. freeze idea may be a domestic political gambit ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

I see no real significance to it,” he said. “I can’t see any rationale for it. The arms control effort is hampered in part by deteriorating trust between Washington and Moscow. Washington accuses Moscow of cheating and of aspiring to a nuclear buildup.

The Defense Intelligence Agency last year projected that Russia’s overall stockpile of nuclear weapons would grow significantly over the next decade, driven by an increase in shorter-range, or non-strategic, weapons that are not governed by the New START treaty.

For its part, Moscow is suspicious of U.S. missile defenses, which it believes could undermine the credibility of its strategic missiles.

Speaking in Moscow on Friday, Putin offered to extend New START without any conditions for at least one year to allow time for talks with Washington on a follow-on treaty. He said Russia is agreeable to including its newest nuclear weapons, some of which are now being deployed, in future arms talks with the United States. But he made clear that an extension must be unconditional.

All those years, the New START has worked, playing its fundamental role of limiting and containing an arms race, Putin said.

Just a few hours later, O’Brien issued a written statement regretting Moscow’s position and touting the U.S. approach, which he said would have been a win for both sides. He said he had thought the Russians were willing to accept the American proposal when he met with them in Geneva on Oct. 2.

President Putin’s response today to extend New START without freezing nuclear warheads is a non-starter, O’Brien said.

“The United States is serious about arms control that will keep the entire world safe. We hope that Russia will reevaluate its position before a costly arms race ensues.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START became the only nuclear arms control deal between the two countries still standing.

Russia previously offered the pact’s extension for five years without any conditions, while the U.S. administration pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China. Moscow has described that idea as unfeasible, pointing to Beijing’s refusal to negotiate any deal that would reduce its much-smaller nuclear arsenal.

Speaking earlier Friday, before he was aware of Putin’s remarks, O’Brien said the U.S. had made a relatively straightforward proposal that we extend New START for a year and that the Russians cap their nuclear warhead number for a year, but added that negotiating with Russia is never easy.

O’Brien also observed that “it may be that, like other countries, the Russians are waiting to see what happens in the Nov. 3 U.S. election.

Election

US Election: Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 8 pts nationally

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Donald Trump Joe Biden

Washington : With just three days left for the November 3 US presidential election, Democratic nominee Joe Biden was in the lead against President Donald Trump by eight points nationally, according to a new polls.

The Fox News poll released on Friday revealed that 52 per cent of likely voters backed the former Vice President, while Trump had the backing of 44 per cent, The Hill news website reported..

Two per cent of those surveyed say they would back a third-party candidate, while another 2 per cent remained undecided.

The Fox News poll comes as other surveys have showed Biden leading the President both nationally and in key swing states.

A CNN poll released on Wednesday showed that Biden currently had the backing of 54 per cent of the registered voters, while 42 per cent supported the President. The Hill news website reported.

In the RealClear Politics polling average, the former Vice President was currently leading Trump in a 51.4 per cent to 43.5 per cent vote.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll national released on October 23 showed Biden with a 10-point advantage.

According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on October 21, Biden was in the lead with support from 49 per cent of registered voters, while Trump had the backing of 45 per cent.

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World

Xi overcomes challenges to his authority in CCP central committee plenary

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Xi Jinping

New Delhi/Beijing: President Xi Jinping overcame all the challenges to his authority at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee’s fifth plenary session.

Top sources told IANS that Xi, who was facing disapproval from some of the members of the CCP over his aggressive policies, dodged all the internal political pressure at the plenary of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP, the highest decision-making body of the party, which concluded on Thursday after four days of deliberations.

Analysts in New Delhi said that Xi has evaded questioning at least for the time being. “An immediate effect will be endorsement of his assertive foreign policy, including with India. This could mean Xi Jinping might initiate military action against India this winter,” an analyst said.

Since the initial mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Cold War-like situation with the US, sources said, there was some discontent among some members of the Central Committee of the CCP against Xi’s leadership.

Following the violent face-off between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Indian troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the disaffection rose further, sources said.

However, Xi prevailed at the plenary session, sources said, adding that the Chinese President outmanoeuvred every critic and opponent.

His vision presented in the 14th five-year plan, which includes six new objectives – to realise socialist modernisation by 2035, build strong nation, set a new development pattern, innovate, revitalise rural China, set up new opening-up structure for trade -were endorsed by the Central Committee.

Xi headed the task force for the drafting of the plan and personally oversaw the draft process, Chinese media said.

Chinese officials on Friday said that China under the plan will continue to be open for trade, “although it would adopt new development strategies that put heavy emphasis on boosting the domestic market and pursuing indigenous innovation in the next five to 15 years.”

The effusive commentary admiring Xi’s vision, which appeared in the China Daily and the Global Times, both mouthpieces of the CCP, after the Central Committee’s press conference on Friday, corroborated that the President vanquished the opposition to his authority.

Backing Xi, the Global Times wrote in an editorial, “The plenary session has continued the overall plan of the 19th National Congress of the CPC, and maintained the strategic pace and spiritual outlook of China’s advancement, which shows China’s strong endurance and stamina amid changes.

“Profound changes are taking place in the world. China has withstood two major challenges: One is the strategic containment from the US, and the other the public health challenge posed by the novel coronavirus. Both challenges are fierce, having brought uncertainties. The 14th five-year plan and the 2035 long-term goal are formulated in this context.”

Defending Xi’s policies, the Global Times said, “The two challenges didn’t derail China’s development. They didn’t even have an impact on its speed. They brought about new situations and conditions, which have driven China’s amazing adaptability. Chinese people have developed a broader vision and become more capable in dealing with challenges, just like the country’s strength and renewal of resistance outperformed a mutating virus.”

The plenary session has not only made the 14th five-year plan, but also looked ahead to 15 more years, the newspaper said while praising Xi’s vision.

Patting the President on his back, it further wrote, “One of the biggest achievements China has made in recent years is that it has stabilised the country’s development. No matter how large the variable is, it diminishes after being dealt with China’s system. The fight against US suppression, coupled with the battle against the coronavirus, created an unprecedented stress test for China, which also has provided us with a yardstick for the future.”

China, it said, has the “courage” to set goals in six areas in the 14th five-year plan.

“The coronavirus is likely to have a lasting influence, and the US may find more trouble with China, but the central government has the confidence to eliminate and curb the negative impact that those risks may have on the country’s economic and social development. The government’s confidence is bolstered by that of the public. The US cannot crush China,” it added.

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India

India And US Discuss UNSC Agenda, Will Work Together On ‘Rule-Based International Order’

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UNSC

India and the US have held wide ranging discussions on issues on the UN Security Council agenda and agreed to work closely given their shared values of democracy, pluralism and rule-based international order, officials in Washington said.

Earlier this year, India, along with Mexico and Ireland, was elected a non-permanent member for a two-year term starting January 1, 2021.

The consultations between India and the US are reflective of the efforts on the part of the two countries to coordinate on a host of global issues that would come up before the powerful organ of the United Nations next year.

“Both sides held wide-ranging discussions on issues on the UN Security Council agenda and recent developments,” the Embassy of India here said in a statement on Thursday.

“They agreed to work closely together given their shared values of democracy, pluralism and rule-based international order, during India’s upcoming term as a non-permanent member of the UNSC during 2021-22,” it said.

India has been pushing for reforms of the United Nations, including the Security Council, stating that its composition doesn’t reflect the current realities and is not representative enough.

The UNSC has 15 members, including five permanent members – the US, the UK, France, Russia and China. China is the only permanent member of the UNSC which is opposed to India’s inclusion into the powerful organ. Half of the 10 non-permanent members are elected every year for a two-year term.

Indian delegation for the two-day consultations on Wednesday and Thursday was led by Vinay Kumar, Additional Secretary (International Organisation and Summits) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The delegation included senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Permanent Mission of India in New York and the Embassy of India in Washington, DC.

The US delegation was led by Pamela D Pryor, Acting Assistant Secretary for State Department’s Bureau of International Organisation Affairs, and included other senior State Department officials.

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