US President Joe Biden is seeking a five-year extension to the New START treaty that governs Russia and the US’s nuclear arsenals. The future of the agreement had been in doubt during the Trump administration.
Under the plans, the proposed extension would see the treaty in force until 2026, something US Officials said would allow future arms control agreements to be explored.
Speaking to reporters, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “I can confirm that the United States intends to seek a five-year extension of New START, as the treaty permits.
“The president has long been clear that the New START Treaty is in the national security interests of the United States. And this extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial, as it is at this time.”
New START is the only nuclear arms treaty regulating the US and Russia’s nuclear arsenals. Previously, the US had been a signatory to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty until the Trump administration withdrew from the treaty citing Russian non-compliance.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said: “President Biden’s decision to seek a five-year extension of New START advances the nation’s defence. Russia’s compliance with the treaty has served our national security interests well, and Americans are much safer with New START intact and extended.
“We cannot afford to lose New START’s intrusive inspection and notification tools. Failing to swiftly extend New START would weaken America’s understanding of Russia’s long-range nuclear forces.”
Kirby added that the Pentagon remained ‘clear-eyed’ about the challenges posed by Russia and is ‘committed to defending the nation against their reckless and adversarial actions.’
For its part, on the day of Biden’s inauguration, the Russian Foreign Ministry signalled it was open to an extension to New START and criticised the Trump administration for a ‘counterproductive and openly aggressive negotiating policy’ when it came to extending New START.
The Russian Foreign Ministry added: “We believe that the extension of New START for five years would create conditions for success in this sphere.”
In the run-up to the election, Biden signalled an aim to recommit the US to several arms control agreements including New START and the Iran Nuclear Deal.