Russia and the United States have formally extended the New START nuclear arms-control treaty for another five years, just days before it was set to expire.
“Extending the New START Treaty makes the United States, U.S. allies and partners, and the world safer. An unconstrained nuclear competition would endanger us all,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a February 3 statement announcing the official extension of the treaty.
New START, the last remaining arms-control pact between Washington and Moscow, limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550, deployed strategic delivery systems at 700, and provides for a verification regime.
President Joe Biden’s new administration said last month it would seek to extend the treaty in an announcement welcomed by Russia. That set off a bureaucratic scramble on both sides to formally ratify the treaty and exchange diplomatic notes before it was set to expire on February 5.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that extending the treaty until February 5, 2026, provides an opportunity to continue dialogue on arms control.
“It will take significant efforts to return the Russian-American dialogue in this area to a stable trajectory, to achieve new major results that strengthen our national security and strategic stability in the world. Russia is ready for such work,” the Russian diplomatic service said.
Former President Donald Trump made a failed attempt late in his term to negotiate limits on other categories of nuclear weapons and to add China to the treaty. A bid to agree to a shorter extension also ran into complications, leaving the fate of the treaty to the incoming Biden administration.
Blinken said the extension of the treaty provides time for Moscow and Washington to negotiate a new verifiable arms-control arrangement while ensuring that the United States can monitor and verify limits on Russian strategic nuclear arms.
“The United States will use the time provided by a five-year extension of the New START Treaty to pursue with the Russian Federation, in consultation with Congress and U.S. allies and partners, arms control that addresses all of its nuclear weapons. We will also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal,” Blinken said.
The treaty extension comes amid strained ties between Moscow and Washington, including most recently over the jailing of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and a crackdown on his supporters following the Kremlin critic’s return from Germany for treatment from nerve agent poisoning.
Blinken said that while Washington would work with Moscow on arms control, the United States remains “clear eyed about the challenges that Russia poses to the United States and the world.”
“Even as we work with Russia to advance U.S. interests, so too will we work to hold Russia to account for adversarial actions as well as its human rights abuses, in close coordination with our allies and partners,” Blinken said.
In recent comments, the Biden administration has suggested the United States is mulling a tougher response against Russia over a host of contentious issues including Ukraine, Russia’s suspected involvement in the massive Solar Winds hack of the U.S. government and major businesses, unverified reports that Russian intelligence may have paid bounties to militants in Afghanistan to target U.S. troops, and any interference in the 2020 election.