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President Biden seeks to prevent New START treaty from lapsing

On January 21, the Biden Administration announced it would seek a full five year extension of the New START treaty. Press secretary Jen Psaki called the treaty “an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries.” PSR was part of the coalition that worked for Senate ratification of New START in 2010. New START is the last remaining arms control pact between Washington and Moscow since the Trump administration withdrew from two others. The treaty limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads for each country at 1,550 and limits deployed strategic delivery systems at 700.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, said allowing the treaty to lapse would have weakened U.S. understanding of Russia’s nuclear forces.

“Extending the treaty’s limitations on stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons until 2026 allows time and space for our two nations to explore new verifiable arms control arrangements that could further reduce risks to Americans.”

PSR agrees with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg who, on January 21, called on the United States and Russia to extend the treaty and to later broaden it, saying,“an extension of the New START is not the end, it’s the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control.”

Earlier that same week Russia had reiterated — before Biden’s proposal — that it would welcome a five-year extension without conditions — per a clause (wisely) written into the treaty.

Reacting to the statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Russia stands for the preservation of the New START and for its extension. We can only welcome the political will to extend the document, but everything will depend on the details of this proposal, which is yet to be studied.”

Given that this extension was offered on the eve of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entering into force, PSR sees the extension as the floor, not the ceiling, of potential arms control progress in the coming years. Nevertheless, New START extension is a welcome step forward for world security. After all, the U.S and Russia  control 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. PSR will be advocating for further arms reduction arrangements between the two nuclear superpowers, along the road to total abolition of nuclear weapons.