In late January, administration sources confirmed that the US would seek a five-year extension to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) arms control treaty with Russia. This comes just days after the inauguration but ahead of the upcoming expiration of the treaty in early February. This move indicates the direction that the Biden administration will take with regards to arms control, and indicates they are enthusiastic about renewing and maintaining international treaties eschewed by the Trump administration.
William Davies, associate analyst at GlobalData comments: “The Biden administration has to make a number of major decisions in coming months about defense spending, and this move clearly illustrates that the administration is going to prioritize international agreements. Beginning his administrative term with the ramping up of a nuclear arms race with Russia is likely a scenario Biden wants to avoid, and the renewal of New START will help to mitigate this risk.”
This treaty also affects hypersonic deployment in that it limits the amount of deployed nuclear weapons, which means that if Russia deploys hypersonics with nuclear warheads it will be limited in how many it can deploy. This will likely not be the last arms control agreement that Biden negotiates during his term, and as Hypersonic technology becomes more prevalent the potential of a push for an agreement that includes China and Russia on their deployment becomes more likely.
Davies continued: “Russia has expressed enthusiasm about renewing the treaty, but has indicated that it requires details before committing, which may test Biden as he has promised to be tougher on Russia than the Trump administration. The US under the previous administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Open Skies treaty – the absence of which has likely weakened international nuclear arms control. The reluctance of China to be engage in arms limitations treaties creates a future problem, as well as the rise of new unregulated technologies such as Hypersonics.”