Will New START nuclear treaty survive ‘hostile’ US-Russia relations?

Will New START nuclear treaty survive ‘hostile’ US-Russia relations?

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The World staff

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Amulya Shankar

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US special envoy Marshall Billingslea speaks to the media after a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergej Rybakow in Vienna, Austria, June 23, 2020.

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Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

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The United States and Russia have about 91% of the world’s nuclear warheads. And the arms control pact — the New START Treaty — between the two nations expires next year. 

The US wants to broaden its main nuclear arms control agreement with Russia to include all their atomic weapons, a US envoy said on Tuesday after talks with Moscow on a new accord.

US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea also said Washington would keep pressing China to join the talks on replacing the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) which expires in February.

Washington wants Beijing involved because it says China is secretly racing to increase the size and reach of its nuclear arsenal, but Moscow favors a multilateral accord, possibly including France and Britain, Billingslea said.

“We, the United States, intend and believe … that the next arms control agreement must cover all nuclear weapons, not just so-called strategic nuclear weapons,” he told a news conference in Vienna that followed the talks there on Monday.

Matthew Bunn is a professor of the practice of energy, national security and foreign policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. He spoke with The World’s Marco Werman about the implications of the New START Treaty.

Marco Werman: What are the main points of the current agreement — the New START Treaty, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — and would you say it’s been effective?

Matthew Bunn: The New START Treaty has been highly effective. Both sides agree that the other is complying with its key provisions. It limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons on each side. We don’t face as many Russian nuclear weapons as we otherwise would. And it provides for an extensive set of monitoring and verification. So, we have more predictability and more understanding of what’s going on.

Related: China rebukes US envoy for photo stunt at nuclear talks with Russia

What’s at stake with this week’s negotiations? Where have the US and Russia settled at this point?

Well, it appears they made some progress. They agreed to set up some working groups on particular topics and to meet again, possibly in July. So that’s the good news. They have not yet agreed to any extension of New START. That’s the bad news. The further bad news is that the United States is still insisting on China taking part. And China has no interest in doing so. China has less than a tenth as many nuclear weapons as either Russia or the United States.

 

Related: US pulls out of Open Skies Treaty, Trump’s latest treaty withdrawal 

So we’ve got a presidential election in November. What signs are you going to be looking for that New START is on track and there will be limits on nuclear arms?

Well, I think we’ll have to watch these negotiations very carefully. I doubt the United States will actually withdraw. But I think that letting the agreement expire — about two weeks into the next president’s term, by the way — is a real danger. My guess is that the Trump administration will not agree to extend New START until the last minute. And so it may be a scramble if Biden is elected, for him to get it extended in the two weeks after he takes office. And I think that scrambling, in general, is not the right way to manage nuclear weapons policy. But I think it’s not just a matter of arms control. It’s a matter of the broader set of measures designed to reduce the danger of nuclear war. Right now, we have the most hostile and dangerous US-Russian relations in decades. We have technologies that are evolving that blur — the line between peace and war — and make it more difficult to prevent escalation from conventional to nuclear war. So there’s a big agenda of steps that have to be taken to reduce nuclear dangers. Ultimately, it’s the governments that have to take action.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed reporting. 

Russia jails Pussy Riot manager for 15 days for petty hooliganism

Russia jails Pussy Riot manager for 15 days for petty hooliganism

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Daniel Ofman

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The World staff

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Anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov poses for a photo before an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Sept. 28, 2018.

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A Moscow court jailed Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, for 15 days on Monday after finding him guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public.

Verzilov, the publisher of the private MediaZona news outlet, was taken in for questioning by police on Sunday over a political rally last summer and held him for hours. He was attacked by an unknown male assailant after he was released.

Both men were later detained by police and Verzilov was charged with swearing in public, Verzilov’s lawyer Leonid Solovyov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

Writing on Twitter after his sentencing on Monday, Verzilov accused the police of staging the incident to provoke and jail him.

“The judge just sentenced me to 15 DAYS FOR SWEARING — but in actual fact, for a police provocation that included attacking me after being questioned for 13 hours in the Investigative Committee,” Verzilov wrote in his Tweet.

TASS news agency cited a police source as saying Verzilov had planned to stage a prank on Wednesday when Russia marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II with a military parade on Red Square. Verzilov denied this in comments to the BBC’s Russian Service.

Verzilov was one of four Pussy Riot activists who ran onto the pitch wearing police uniforms during the soccer World Cup final in Moscow in 2018, a stunt they said aimed to draw attention to human rights abuses.

Kirill Koroteev, a lawyer and the head of the International Practice of Agora, the group that has taken up Verzilov’s case, spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about what happened. 

Marco Werman: Kirill, before we get to the court case from earlier today, what is the timeline here? Just briefly explain what happened to Mr. Verzilov after he got arrested Sunday.

Kirill Koroteev: Police burst into his apartment. They broke the door. There he was arrested and taken to a police station where he was questioned for 13 hours approximately, without access to a lawyer, but then he was released. So he was walking away from the police station and noticed a person following him. And 10 minutes after his release, that person just attacked him, pushing him on the ground. That’s when the police arrived and arrested him for the fight. Now, it turned out that the person who pushed Mr. Verzilov had no injuries, and only Mr. Verzilov had injuries. So, the police charged him with cursing in public instead.

 

So, let me get the straight. After 13 hours of interrogation, Verzilov was followed from the station. He was beaten up and then rearrested?

Exactly.

So, what was the verdict today in court?

The court sentenced him to 15 days in prison and decided not to hear the policeman who charged him and not to hear the person who attacked him. The court believed the police-written report saying that Verzilov cursed in public and the court did not believe Verzilov who said he didn’t.

Why do you think this is happening right now to Pyotr Verzilov?

What is happening is quite usual for the activists but the timing of his precise arrest is not very clear. It was rumored that he was going to stage some sort of interruption at the military parade on June 24, or at the voting on the constitution on July 1. But today in court, Pyotr Verzilov denied that and said he had no such intention.

 

What does this arrest and this whole ordeal tell you about the mindset of state authorities in Russia?

Well, during last year’s Moscow protests and even previously, any major leaders would get arrested beforehand so that they spend the day of the protest in prison. It is quite a regular modus operandi for the Russian authorities. They just cannot operate otherwise than by breaching individual rights.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

Russia jails ex-US marine Paul Whelan for 16 years on spying charges

Russia jails ex-US marine Paul Whelan for 16 years on spying charges

Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing on extending his pre-trial detention, in Moscow, Russia, October 24, 2019. 

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Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters/File Photo

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A Russian court convicted Paul Whelan, former US marine who served two tours in Iraq, of spying for the United States on Monday and sentenced him to 16 years in jail.

Whelan, who holds US, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28, 2018 as he prepared to attend a wedding.

Russia says Whelan, 50, was caught with a computer flash drive containing classified information. Whelan, who pleaded not guilty, said he was set up in a sting operation and had thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.

“This is all political theater,” said Whelan, who watched proceedings from a glass box inside the Moscow city courtroom.

He told the judge he had not understood the verdict as proceedings were conducted in Russian without translation.

Related: Paul Whelan’s twin brother calls Russia espionage accusations ‘balderdash’

Whelan had held up a piece of paper on which he denounced the proceedings as a “sham trial” and asked for US President Donald Trump and the leaders of Britain, Canada and Ireland to take “decisive action.”

Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said an appeal would be made against the verdict. Questioning the court’s independence, Whelan’s family said in a statement “Russian judges are political not legal entities.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was furious and wanted Moscow to immediately free Whelan.

“The United States is outraged by the decision of a Russian court today to convict US citizen Paul Whelan after a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defense witnesses,” said Pompeo.

“The treatment of Paul Whelan at the hands of Russian authorities has been appalling. Russia failed to provide Mr. Whelan with a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal; and during his detention has put his life at risk by ignoring his long-standing medical condition; and unconscionably kept him isolated from family and friends.”

John Sullivan, US Ambassador to Russia, told reporters that no evidence had been produced to prove Whelan’s guilt during what he called a mockery of justice. The ruling would not have “a good impact” on ties between Moscow and Washington — already strained by a range of issues — but that dialogue would continue, he said.

Prisoner swap?

Zherebenkov said Whelan was told when he was detained that he would be part of a prisoner swap with the United States and that he believed this was what Moscow now wanted to do.

The Russian Foreign Ministry told the Russian news agency RIA it had proposed detailed prisoner swaps to Washington many times but gave no further details.

Moscow has called for the release of two Russians jailed in the United States — arms dealer Viktor Bout, who agreed to sell weapons to US undercover agents posing as Colombian guerrillas planning to attack American soldiers, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.

Zherebenkov said he believed Moscow wanted to do a deal involving Bout and Yaroshenko. Whelan did not oppose the idea of formally asking Russia to pardon him, Zherebenkov said, but wanted to appeal against the verdict first.

Bout’s wife, Alla, told the RIA news agency on Monday she was ready to pen an appeal to US authorities asking them to swap her husband for Whelan.

A New York court in 2012 sentenced Bout, subject of a book called “Merchant of Death” and inspiration for the film “Lord of War” starring Nicolas Cage, to 25 years in jail.

Whelan will serve his sentence in a maximum security prison, the court said. State prosecutors had sought an 18-year term.

By Andrew Osborn and Susan Heavey/Reuters

Russia’s prime minister tested positive for COVID-19. What does it mean for Russian politics?

Russia's prime minister tested positive for COVID-19. What does it mean for Russian politics?

Producer
Daniel Ofman

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Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin during their meeting via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia April 30, 2020.

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Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

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Travis Scott – NC-17 Lyrics

[Intro: Travis Scott]
Ooh

[Chorus: Travis Scott]
Me and my bitch, I swear we like the same sex (ooh)
Fuck with all my chains on, let’s have chain sex (serve, yeah)
Hangin’ with the gang, you get your fangs wet (wet)
Wanna kick with the gang, you gotta bang it (it’s lit)
If you gon’ throw ice on, gotta swang it (ice)
Holes in the wall, I can not hang it (nah)
Pour different colors, sippin’, tainted (ooh)
Whole thing of vultures start vibratin’ (rawr)

[Verse 1: Travis Scott]
Don’t do playgrounds, we do not swing sets (swing)
Shawty got the K, don’t entertain threats (grah-grah)
Shawty came my way she brought the same sex (same)
Bust it down, she talkin’ body language (it’s lit)
Eating that punane got my bangs wet (eat it up)
We gon’ have to change for the banquet (drippin’)
Solo with Mussain is not the same specs (skrrt, skrrt)
Pull up, left with something I ain’t came with (alright)

[Interlude: Travis Scott]
Woah, woah, woah, woah
Woah, woah, woah, woah
Woah, ice, froze, go, get, gone
Get gone (yah! yah!)

[Verse 2: 21 Savage]
Three main bitches thinkin’ they my main bitch (21, 21)
Hit the club and swap the hoes I came with (straight up, straight up)
Don’t you come outside, we on that gang shit (straight up, straight up)
Had to switch my t-shirt ’cause she stained it (on God)
Had to buy a visa, she from Moscow (21)
Fuckin’ ’round with Travis, you get crossed out (crossed out)
He used to be on, that nigga off now (he off now)
I done got so rich, I Saint Laurent my dogs now (straight up, straight up)
Earrings cost a quarter certified by GIA (21)
If it’s ’bout my bae or ’bout some smoke I’m on my way (skrrt, skrrt)
Your bitch gave the kid Cudi but I’m not signed to Ye (on God)
I nutted on her cheek, her new nickname is Baby Face (21)

[Chorus: Travis Scott]
Me and my bitch, I swear we like the same sex (ooh)
Fuck with all my chains on, let’s have chain sex (serve, yeah)
Hangin’ with the gang, you get your fangs wet (wet)
Wanna kick with the gang, you gotta bang it (it’s lit)
If you gon’ throw ice on, gotta swang it (ice)
Holes in the wall, I can not hang it (nah)
Pour different colors, sippin’, tainted (ooh)
Woah think a vibe just start vibratin’ (rawr)

mishlawi – turn back lyrics

[Chorus]
I come get my paycheck then I turn back
They just dropped they knew shit I ain’t heard that
I walk in the function make ’em turn back
I walk in the function make ’em turn back

Might take a vacation I deserve that
I just came from London where the birds at
I done came this far and I won’t turn back
I done came this far and I won’t turn back

[Verse 1]
Came far from a seat in the back
Calls on the phone want a feat for a track
They hit me I don’t ever holla back
And a man talk hard I hit ‘em with a bat
I’m so straight up they zig-zag
Y’all bring bitch home I brings bags
So damn fresh they need a tic tac
And I went Moscow brought home 8 racks
Yeah y’all so sad
Pay attention to the man
Hate on me your girl is a fan
I’m on top I ain’t leaving again
I ain’t gotta say who I’m better than
Except everybody in the mo’fuckin motherland
There’s no other one b-town empire ottoman
6 foot 3 big beard like a talaban
Serve rap fiends y’all sweet like cinnamon

[Chorus]
I come get my paycheck then I turn back
They just dropped they knew shit I ain’t heard that
I walk in the function make ’em turn back
I walk in the function make ’em turn back

Might take a vacation I deserve that
I just came from London where the birds at
I done came this far and I won’t turn back
I done came this far and I won’t turn back

[Verse 2]
I been out for days I been out all day
Want me out the way but I’m on the way
Think they gon’ have to pick up the pace they want take my place
I know they more careful what they say when it’s face to face yeah yeah
Y’all want talk my destiny
But you can’t sit next to me
My new bitch on the gram for my ex to see
My old bitch got a man at the embassy
And my passport full reset for me
I don’t really need questioning
Like I’ll give in eventually
Especially when losing intensity
They tense to me but still try testing me

[Chorus]
I come get my paycheck then I turn back
They just dropped they knew shit I ain’t heard that
I walk in the function make ’em turn back
I walk in the function make ’em turn back

Might take a vacation I deserve that
I just came from London where the birds at
I done came this far and I won’t turn back
I done came this far and I won’t turn back