Nuclear disarmament and the FBI: what Biden’s first day in office was all about

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Nuclear disarmament and the FBI
What concerns Biden on the first day in office

Under Trump, no agreement could be reached on an extension of the nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. As soon as the US president changes, Washington and Moscow give the green light. In addition to difficult external relationships, Biden also focuses on important personnel.

Relations with Russia, which had always been difficult, continued to suffer after Russian influence over the 2016 US presidential election. After Trump was voted out of office, there is a step closer to each other. The new US President Joe Biden wants to extend the last major nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. Accordingly, Biden and Moscow want to agree to an extension of five years. An official confirmation is still pending.

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 operational nuclear warheads each. It was closed for a period of ten years and had the option of being extended.

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.

Nuclear war was more likely under Trump

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 Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said 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.

Biden holds on to FBI chief

Domestically, Biden has decided to hold on to the Trump-appointed FBI chief Christopher Wray. Media reports confirm this. At first, there were doubts after White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki refused to answer a question about it at her first press conference on Wednesday.

But now the news channels CNN and NBC as well as the “Wall Street Journal” reported that Biden would hold on to Wray. FBI directors are appointed for ten years, but a president can replace them. Donald Trump appointed Wray to succeed James Comey, whom he had fired in connection with the Russia investigation. The FBI had then investigated possible connections between Moscow and members of Trump’s campaign team.

Especially in the last few months of his tenure, Trump was dissatisfied with Wray because he refused to investigate Trump’s opponents. Specifically, Trump is said to have called for an investigation into the son of the now-elected President Joe Biden. Before the election, Trump had repeatedly claimed that Hunter Biden was involved in corrupt business. Wray’s statements that the FBI had no evidence of major cases of election fraud are also said to have displeased Trump. Until the last days of his term in office, Trump had claimed without any evidence that his victory was stolen from him by massive election fraud.

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