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No handshake this time around. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement on Friday that Vladimir Putin's position for the extension the New START treaty was a "non-starter" — effectively confirming that hopes of a pre-election nuclear deal had been dashed.

Between the lines: Just a few days ago, senior administration officials were expressing confidence that a deal was close, or even agreed in principle. But senior Russian officials, including Putin, have since indicated that they see little chance of a complex deal on such an expedited timetable.

  • Putin instead proposed a one-year extension of New START, the last major bilateral deal constraining both nuclear superpowers, on Friday to allow for “substantive talks" on the future of arms control.

In response, O'Brien said the U.S. had already proposed a one-year extension "in exchange for Russia and the United States capping all nuclear warheads during that period."

  • "This would have been a win for both sides, and we believed the Russians were willing to accept this proposal when I met with my counterpart in Geneva. President Putin’s response today to extend New START without freezing nuclear warheads is a non-starter."
  • "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," he said.

State of play: Russia ideally wants to extend New START, which expires on Feb. 5, for five years, the maximum duration set out under the original treaty.

  • The Trump administration is skeptical of the Obama-era accord, but said it would extend it if for a shorter period if the Russians agreed to a nuclear warhead freeze and a framework for future nuclear negotiations that would also involve China.
  • Yes, but: Joe Biden has also said he plans to extend New START shortly after taking office if he wins the election.

The bottom line: It appears that the Russians are willing to wait and see what happens on election day.

Go deeper

Jan 20, 2021 - World

Iran lays out "road map" for nuclear talks with Biden

Khamenei earlier this month. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Iran has been accumulating bargaining chips and laying out its strategy for engagement with Joe Biden, who arrives in office promising to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance.

Why it matters: Recent statements from Iran's leaders indicate that they're willing to strike such a deal. But the sides differ over who will have to make the first move, and when.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
28 mins ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.