Trump seeks “ top of the pack” status
U.S. President Donald Trump, in an interview to Reuters, had said that he wanted to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it was at the 'top of the pack.' He argued that the United States had fallen behind in its nuclear arms capacity. The new strategic arms limitation treaty between the United States and Russia, known as New START, had stipulated that both sides must limit by February next year their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels for a duration of 10 years. Trump called New START a one-sided pact, saying, 'Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it's START, whether it's the Iran (nuclear) deal ... We're going to start making good deals,'. The U.S. President also mentioned in the interview that Moscow's deployment of a cruise missile was in violation of a 1987 arms control treaty that banned land-based U.S. and Russian intermediate-range missiles. 'To me it's a big deal,' Trump said, adding that he would bring up the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin 'if and when we meet.'
Putin’s plan for Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that Moscow's goal in Syria was to “stabilise the legitimate authority” and strike a “decisive blow” against terrorism. He told a group of naval officers returning from Syria that Russia had no plans to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs. Putin said “Our task is to stabilise the legitimate authority in the country and strike a decisive blow against international terrorism,”. Putin's comments, broadcast on Russian television, came as UN-backed peace talks were opening in Geneva between opposition and government delegations. The Russian President said that the sooner Syria reached a political settlement, the better the chances for the international community to put an end to the terrorist plague on Syrian territory. He also said that Russia's Syria intervention had “contributed directly to Russia's security”.
Al Bab seized by Turkey-backed Syria rebels.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels said they had fully captured the town of Al Bab from the Islamic State group, marking a key defeat for the jihadists after weeks of heavy fighting. Ankara said its allies now had “near complete control” of the town. Al-Bab, just 25 kilometres south of the Turkish border, was the last IS stronghold in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said rebels had “near complete control” of Al-Bab. “When the search and combing operations are over, we will be able to say that Al-Bab has been completely cleared of Daesh (IS) elements,” he said, quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency. Isik reaffirmed that Turkey was now ready to join any operation by international coalition forces to take the Syrian city of Raqqa. Al Bab was also seen as a prize by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, who had advanced to just 1.5 kilometres from Al Bab in recent weeks. “Al Bab is important, insofar as its taking from IS will deprive the group of a tax base and an area where it was able to congregate and plot attacks against Syrians and the West,” said Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the US-based Atlantic Council.
Talks on Syria begin at Geneva
Syria's warring sides came face-to-face in U.N. peace talks for the first time in three years to hear mediator Staffan de Mistura implore them to cooperate to find a way out of almost six years of war. Mistura told the delegates "I ask you to work together. I know it's not going to be easy to end this horrible conflict and lay the foundation for a country at peace with itself, sovereign and unified,".Mistura told reporters after the opening session, that it would be his "dream" to bring them back together for direct talks, but there was work to be done before that could happen. De Mistura told the representatives of President Bashar al-Assad's government and his opponents that they had a joint responsibility to end a conflict that had killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. Describing the negotiations as an uphill task, he said they would centre on U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 which called for a new constitution, U.N.-supervised elections and transparent and accountable governance. Neither delegation clapped the speech by de Mistura, who went to shake hands with both sides after his opening remarks. Even as he warmly embraced the opposition delegates, the government group were walking out of the room and did not turn back. The lead negotiator for the opposition - which was still fractured and did not have a completely unified delegation - said the Geneva talks should prioritise finding a political transition, something he said Assad's side did not want. But Russia's envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, Alexei Borodavkin, said demands from rebels and their Western and Arab backers for Assad to step down were "absurd".