The United States will seek a five-year extension of the new START nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia – the latest non-proliferation treaty between the two countries, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday. .
The new START, which came into effect in 2011, limits the number of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles that each country can deploy. It was due to expire next month.
“The President has long been clear that the new START Treaty is in the interests of the national security of the United States. This extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is contradictory as it is now, ”Psaki told reporters at a briefing.
Psaki’s comments come a day after Moscow said it was calling for a five-year extension of the treaty without additional conditions so that Russia and the United States can “seriously and jointly seek answers to questions of international security and strategic stability ”.
The Trump administration made a late offer to extend the treaty, but its terms were rejected by Russia.
Psaki noted that the treaty, which is the last remaining since the Trump administration’s withdrawal of two more, was “an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries.”
She said the extension comes as President Joe Biden has asked the intelligence community to take a close look at cyberattacks from Russia, his alleged interference in the 2020 election and other actions.
Despite the extension proposal, Psaki said Biden was determined to hold Russia “accountable for its reckless and contradictory actions,” such as his alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hack event, the 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of the opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said allowing the treaty to expire would have weakened America’s understanding of Russian nuclear forces.
“The extension of the Strategic Nuclear Stockpile Treaty limits until 2026 leaves time and space for our two countries to explore new verifiable arms control arrangements that could further reduce risks to Americans “, did he declare. “And the Department stands ready to support our colleagues in the State Department as they complete this expansion and explore these new arrangements.”
Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan was due to pass the extension proposal to Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov on Thursday afternoon, according to an official familiar with the matter, who spoke with the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity. discuss private diplomatic conversations.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday called on the United States and Russia to extend the treaty and expand it later.
“We should not find ourselves in a situation with no nuclear warhead limitation, and New START will expire in a few days,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels. The treaty expires on February 5.
Stoltenberg stressed that “an extension of the new START is not the end, it is the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control”.
The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads.
Former President Donald Trump had been very critical of the new START, saying it put the United States at a disadvantage. His administration waited until last year to engage Russia in substantive discussions on the future of the treaty. Trump insisted that China be added to the treaty, but Beijing rejected the idea out of hand.
Trump’s senior negotiator on the new START talks with the Russians, Marshall S Billingslea, wrote on Twitter Thursday that Biden would be wrong by quickly agreeing to a five-year extension.
“I hope that’s not true,” he wrote, referring to reports on Thursday’s proposal. “If so, shows a glaring lack of negotiation skills. It only took 24 hours for Biden’s team to squander the most important leverage we have on Russia. “
Hope this is not true. If so, shows a glaring lack of negotiation skills. It only took 24 hours for Biden’s team to squander the most important leverage we have on Russia. https://t.co/7D6ShWZz5b
– USArmsControl (@USArmsControl) January 21, 2021