Russia's top diplomat doubts Moscow and Washington can negotiate an extension of their last arms control pact still standing, even as the United States offers a more optimistic view.
Speaking with several news outlets on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia ccouldn't accept the conditions put forward by the United States for the extension of the New START treaty.
"I personally don't see the prospect," he snapped when asked if the extension was possible before the pact expires in February.
"We will never say that we will shut the door and cut all contacts but we explain that it's impossible to talk on the basis of an ultimatum they put forward that fully ignores the principles which were acknowledged as the basis for all our agreements for decades."
Lavrov's pessimistic view contrasted with the statements from US diplomats, who said Moscow and Washington were close to a deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US welcomed the opportunity to complete an agreement "based on understandings achieved over the last couple weeks about what the range of possibilities look like for an extension of New START".
He said he was "hopeful that the Russians will find a way to agree to an outcome that, frankly, I think is in their best interest and in our best interest," voicing hope that China will eventually join the talks too.
It is understood US and Russian negotiators have agreed in principle to continue freezing their nuclear warhead stockpiles in a bid to salvage the New START.
Sources say it's not yet clear if the agreement will succeed or translate into an extension of the pact.
If it works, an agreement could be announced before the November 3 presidential election with an eye toward extending the accord and eventually bringing China into it.
The New START treaty was signed in 2010 by US President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
It limits each country to no more than 1550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, the New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.
Russia has offered its extension without any conditions, while the Trump administration has pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China.
Moscow has described that idea as unfeasible.
Lavrov specified Wednesday that Russia can't accept the US proposal to limit battlefield nuclear weapons alongside nuclear warheads that arm strategic missiles and bombers until the US agrees to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.