MOSCOW (AP) — The possibility of extending a pivotal Russia-U.S. arms control pact is to be discussed in prospective talks with Washington, the Kremlin said Friday without saying whether Moscow wants to keep it.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the prospects of extending the New START Treaty that is set to expire in 2021 will "depend on the position of our American partners" and require negotiations.
He wouldn't say whether the Kremlin favors extending the 2010 pact that limited Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Peskov pointed to a "certain break in dialogue on strategic security issues" during the Obama administration, and said Moscow and Washington now need "an update of information and positions."
Russia-U.S. relations have been strained over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russia hacking of the Democrats in the U.S. presidential election. The Kremlin has welcomed President Donald Trump's promise to mend the broken ties.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview published Friday in the daily Izvestia that developing "constructive and mutually beneficial bilateral ties will benefit both Russia and the U.S. and have a positive influence on the situation in the world."
Peskov on Friday denied a report by the Washington Post claiming that Michael Flynn, the retired general who is now Trump's national security adviser, had discussed a possible review of anti-Russian sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington in December. Peskov said Ambassador Sergei Kislyak did talk to Flynn, but the rest of the report was wrong.
While suggesting possible cooperation with Moscow to fight the Islamic State group in Syria, as a candidate Trump was critical of the New START and talked about a need to strengthen U.S. nuclear arsenals.
In December, Trump declared on Twitter that the U.S. should "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability" until the rest of the world "comes to its senses" regarding nuclear weapons.
Putin also has said that strengthening Russia's nuclear capabilities should be among the priorities for the nation.
The platform of Trump's Republican Party had promised to "abandon arms control treaties that benefit our adversaries without improving our national security" and called for the development of "a multi-layered missile defense system."
Kislyak told Russian media in Washington that he sees little chance for a compromise on missile defense as Moscow believes the U.S. wants to develop the shield against Russia despite assurances that it's directed against other threats.
"I don't exclude that at a certain stage we may have a mutual interest to talk about those issues, but as of now I'm not seeing any basis for reaching agreement," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
He voiced hope, however, that joint efforts to fight the IS could help break the ice in Russia-U.S. ties. "If we have serious cooperation, it could help to start rebuilding trust," Kislyak said in televised remarks.
Kislyak added that Russian and U.S. diplomats will start soon to try to prepare a Putin-Trump meeting.
The ambassador also has sought to downplay differences on Iran, saying that "we disagree more on accents related to the nuclear agreement rather than substance."
Trump has accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran and responded to Iran's recent missile test with a package of sanctions. The penalties, however, referred solely to the missile program and didn't directly undercut a landmark 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers that curtailed Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for rolling back international sanctions.