Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Disarmament treaty extended
Kremlin announces agreement with USA on New Start
Just a few days before the deadline, the USA and Russia agree on an extension of the New Start contract. This limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries. US President Biden sees this as a basis for further disarmament treaties.
After the Kremlin announced, Russia and the USA reached an agreement to extend the New Start nuclear disarmament treaty. Corresponding diplomatic notes had been exchanged, the Kremlin announced after a phone call between President Vladimir Putin and his US colleague Joe Biden.
Both sides had previously declared their willingness to extend the last disarmament agreement, which expired at the beginning of February, by five years. The Russian parliament is now waiting for the relevant documents and will begin the ratification process immediately, said the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Duma, Leonid Slutsky. The Duma is ready to start work at any moment.
The New Start Treaty on the Limitation of Nuclear Weapons would have expired in a few days. 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 operational nuclear warheads each. It was closed for a period of ten years and had the option of being extended. If it had not been extended, there would have been no agreement for the first time in decades that set limits on the number of strategic nuclear weapons.
Russia and the USA together own around 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. 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, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed on Wednesday last week that the contract be extended by five years without any preconditions. Shortly afterwards it was announced that Biden was also ready for such an extension.
Trump wanted to involve China
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. The Pentagon stressed last week that an extension would serve the defense of the United States. The Americans would then be much safer. One cannot afford to lose the instruments for inspections and reporting obligations. An extension to 2026 would also give both sides enough time to explore new arms control agreements.
Russia had spoken out early in favor of an extension of the current treaty and warned of an arms race if it failed. Russia is ready for cooperation on the basis of the principles of equality and mutual consideration of interests, it said last Wednesday. However, the Trump administration had insisted, according to US media, that the “freezing” of the number of all nuclear warheads in both countries be included in the treaty. The original version only defines the 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. The danger of a war that was also waged with nuclear weapons was considered to be significantly higher during Trump’s term of office 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.