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

McMaster: Putin is determined to "drag us all down"

Axios' Mike Allen (left) and retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. Photo: Axios

Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, President Trump's former national security adviser, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "determined to drag us all down like the KGB operator he is" through political subversion and disinformation.

What he's saying: "He's quite adept at it. He's one of the best liars in the world, deceivers in the world. ... Let's just stop being chumps about this. Right?"

Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.

AOC: "Extremely important" that Biden offer Bernie Sanders a Cabinet position

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she believes it's "extremely important" that Joe Biden offer Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive leaders Cabinet positions if he's elected president.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez was pressed repeatedly on policy differences between her and the more moderate Biden, including her opposition to fracking and support for Medicare for All. She responded that it would be a "privilege" and a "luxury" to be able to lobby a Biden administration on progressive issues, insisting that the focus right now should be on winning the White House.