After a period of disagreements and failed diplomatic negotiations with Donald Trump’s administration, there is probably hope that the new United States President Joe Biden’s administration to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee head Leonid Slutsky said at a press conference in Moscow that as the United States welcomes a new administration, there is some optimism for the START.
“I think the democratic camp, the Biden administration, will submit a proposal to Congress within the next few days on extending the New START. We stand ready to carry out the same ratification procedures, if necessary, even despite the extremely short time that’s left,” he said.
There were also many media reports about Russia’s position on START. The current situation in the sphere of nuclear disarmament is the worst since the non-proliferation regime’s establishment over 50 years ago that was initiated by Moscow and Washington, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.
It is unlikely that the incoming Biden administration will get rid of all the obstacles in the way of cooperation with Russia in the sphere of arms control and non-proliferation. The mutual mistrust is too great to quickly iron out the current situation. However, there is a chance that by late January, a more favorable atmosphere for constructive efforts can be established.
The first opportunity of this kind arises due to the looming expiration date of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) on February 5, 2021, which calls for urgent measures to prolong it. Moscow has repeatedly urged Washington not to delay extending the treaty, which it describes as the golden standard for disarmament.
In an interview with the Financial Times in June 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that should the New START Treaty cease to exist, “then there would be no instrument in the world to curtail the arms race.”
US President-elect Joe Biden has already said that he would greenlight a quick prolongation of New START for a short-term period to begin more substantive talks with Moscow on strategic stability. According to CNN’s sources, Biden believes it is important to extend the New START deal and to use it as a basis for new agreements on arms control.
Alexei Arbatov, who heads the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the treaty is likely to be prolonged, however, several details need to be cleared up beforehand, namely which Russian systems should be included in it.
Moscow agreed that its state-of-the-art Avangard missile system should be included in the treaty. The same can be applied to the Sarmat super-heavy ICBM that is set to be commissioned soon.
However, there may be legal difficulties, Arbatov told the newspaper. If New START expires without being prolonged, the situation may be quite concerning, as the talks on a new treaty have not started yet. However, this situation may be resolved legally and politically, if there is goodwill from both sides.
There may be a joint declaration that the parties won’t violate the treaty’s provisions until it is formally extended. It is not stipulated anywhere that the pact should be prolonged the moment it expires.
The New START is to expire on February 5, 2021, but may be extended for another five years, he said. The New START is a bilateral treaty between Russia and the U.S., envisioning the reduction and limitation of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, which took effect on February 5, 2011. It was designed to last at least ten years and may be extended upon mutual consent for another five years.