The trembling over the last major disarmament treaty is obviously over. Shortly after the change of power in Washington, the US and Russia are heading in the same direction.
The US administration of the new President Joe Biden is aiming for a five-year extension in the negotiations with Russia on the New Start disarmament treaty, which is about to expire. The US intends to expand the last nuclear disarmament agreement between the two countries, Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington on Thursday. An extension of five years would make “even more sense if relations with Russia are hostile as they are now,” said Psaki.
The New Start Treaty on the limitation of nuclear weapons would have expired in a good two weeks. The agreement, which came into force on February 5, 2011, limits the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States to 800 delivery systems and 1,550 deployable nuclear warheads each. It was closed for a period of ten years and had the option of being extended.
Investigation into Navalny attack
Biden’s spokeswoman also announced that the new intelligence coordinator, Avril Haines, will initiate investigations against Russia in connection with the poison attack on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Navalny, who recently returned to his homeland after treatment in Germany and was immediately arrested, blames Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin for the attack.
According to Psaki, investigations should also be initiated into the alleged interference of Russia in the US presidential election and the cyber attack on the US government that was uncovered in December.
Trump wanted to negotiate new terms
The government of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had not been able to agree on an extension with Moscow in tough months of negotiations. Immediately after Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed on Wednesday that the contract be extended by five years without preconditions. Trump’s line of negotiation was aggressive and counterproductive, it said.
According to the US media, the crux of the talks between Moscow and the Trump administration was the “freezing” of the number of all nuclear warheads in both countries, which the US had insisted on. The current treaty only sets a limit on the number of operational nuclear warheads. In addition, the previous US government had sought a multilateral agreement with China’s participation. Beijing has so far refused to negotiate its growing nuclear arsenal.
Biden: Treaty is “anchor of strategic stability”
Before taking office, Biden had declared that the treaty was an “anchor of strategic stability” between the US and Russia and could be the basis for new arms control agreements. Russia had spoken out in favor of an extension early on and warned of an arms race if it failed.
If the treaty were to expire without renewal, there would be no agreement for the first time in decades that set limits to the stock of strategic nuclear weapons. Russia and the USA together own around 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
NATO for more arms control
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday in Brussels that the extension of the agreement could mark the beginning of efforts to further strengthen arms control. One will also have to look at weapon systems that have not yet been covered by the New Start contract. In addition, China must be included.
The danger of a war that was also waged with nuclear weapons was seen as significantly higher during Trump’s tenure than in the past three decades. One of the reasons for this was the end of the INF treaty to renounce land-based medium-range nuclear weapon systems.
The US had dissolved the agreement in the summer of 2019 with the backing of its NATO partners because they assume that Russia has been violating it for years with a medium-range system called 9M729 (NATO code: SSC-8). The INF treaty prohibited both sides from producing, testing and owning ground-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5500 kilometers.