START to Expire, But Don't Perspire

U.S. and Russian negotiators will miss their December 5 deadline to finish negotiations on a new  strategic arms reduction treaty, but both the White House and the Kremlin announced today that they would continue to act as if the treaty were in force until they sign a new one. Technically, the START treaty expires at midnight.

The White House expected to issue a joint statement with the Russian President Dimitry Medvev on Saturday, but Russia jumped the gun, releasing a "bridging statement" this a.m.

Darryl Kimball, the president of the Arms Control Association, interprets the statement to read that the US and Russia "will continue operating in its spirit after December 5 and until the new START agreement is negotiated and enters into force."

"Our teams are working hard in Geneva, but we're not going to sign a less-than-satisfactory deal to meet a deadline," a senior U.S. official tells me.

An agreement before the end of December is likely, another official said.

In other arms control news, it's been reported that, for the first time, there's a "deputies level" meeting scheduled to discuss the Nuclear Posture Review. Translating this for you, it means that the staff work on this very important American strategy document is nearing completion, and that the principals -- the policy makers in the administration -- are going to start wrestling over the language, goals and scope. (See here for coverage.).