MOSCOW — Russia on Friday proposed extending a soon-to-expire nuclear arms treaty for one year without any changes, a move seen in Washington as a tactic to delay action on the treaty until after the American presidential election.

The offer came just two days after the Kremlin rejected as “nonsense” what the Trump administration hailed as a tentative deal to salvage the pact, the New Start treaty, the last remaining major arms control pact between the two biggest nuclear powers.

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, who had previously pushed hard for a five-year extension of the accord, made the surprise proposal during a videoconference with his Kremlin Security Council, saying it would be “extremely sad if the treaty ceased to exist.”

While boasting that “we clearly have new weapons systems that the American side does not have, at least not yet,” Mr. Putin cast his offer as a gesture of good will toward “all states of the world that are interested in maintaining strategic stability.” A one year-extension, he added, would allow for “meaningful negotiations” to continue up to and possibly beyond early February, when the current treaty expires.

It would also mean that Russia could well be negotiating with a new United States president less hostile to the terms of the original Obama-era treaty than President Trump has been.


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The offer drew a cool reception in Washington. Robert O’Brien, the president’s national security adviser, told a session of the Aspen Security Forum on Friday morning that the United States had proposed a one-year extension of New Start, with a one-year cap on adding to the stockpiled weapons of both nations. Stockpiled weapons are not mounted on missiles, bombers or submarines, and thus are not covered by the current treaty.

“We made a relatively straightforward proposal,” he said “We were hopeful we would get some traction,” he said, on the way to a “terrific, long-term arms control deal.”

“We’ll see if they get back to us,’‘ he said, but did not sound like he thought they would. “The Russians are waiting to see what happens,’‘ he said, referring to the election in 18 days.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee was involved in the negotiation of the original 2010 agreement and has indicated that, if elected, he would agree to a straightforward, five-year extension and work later to expand its scope.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian legislature’s international affairs committee, said Mr. Putin’s proposal would remove pressure for a deal before the accord expires and disentangle arms talks from pre-election politics in the United States.

The Trump administration has balked at agreeing to a five-year extension without revisions, an option that would not require Senate approval. Mr. Trump has deemed that unacceptable because the treaty signed by President Obama did not cover all of Russia’s nuclear arms, or any of China’s.

China, however, has refused to join any revised version of New Start, arguing that its nuclear arsenal is tiny compared with those of the United States or Russia.

While eager to salvage New Start, Russia has shown little interest in giving President Trump a foreign policy victory ahead of a United States presidential election now less than three weeks away, indicating, perhaps, that it expects Mr. Biden to win. Senior Russian officials this week poured scorn on claims on Tuesday by Mr. Trump’s lead negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, of an “agreement in principle, at the highest levels of our two governments, to extend the treaty.”

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, dismissed this as fantasy. “Washington is describing what is desired, not what is real,” Mr. Ryabkov, Russia’s chief negotiator, said in a statement.

Russia’s open mockery of the supposed deal, however, left Moscow looking churlish and risked compromising Mr. Putin’s longstanding efforts to present his country as deeply committed to arms control — in contrast to the United States, which has walked away from a number of accords in the past.

Mr. Putin’s proposal on Friday, said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a veteran foreign policy analyst, suggested an attempt to correct any damage to Russia’s image from this week’s dispute, more than an offer with a real chance of being accepted.

“It is just a public relations shot in the direction of discussion in the United States,” Mr. Trenin said in a telephone interview. “It just returns the ball to the U.S. and not much more.”

David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Weston, Vt.

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