Russia, US extend nuclear treaty on Kremlin’s terms

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Russia, US extend nuclear treaty on Kremlin’s terms

Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missiles roll in Red Square during the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo)
Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missiles roll in Red Square during the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo)

Russia and the United States have decided to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty on Moscow’s terms, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday.

According to the RIA news agency, Putin submitted to the State Duma a bill on the ratification of the extension agreement. The document stipulates a five-year renewal period – until Feb. 5, 2026.

“On our terms: for five years without preconditions, without any additions,” Ryabkov told reporters.

In a phone conversation Tuesday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Joseph Biden expressed satisfaction with the exchange of notes on reaching an agreement to extend the New START treaty. The treaty was signed in 2010 and is set to expire next month, which limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy. According to the White House, Biden and Putin ordered their employees to work urgently in order to have time to extend it until Feb. 5.

Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president. The talks on the treaty’s extension also were clouded by tensions between Russia and the U.S., which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.

Despite the extension proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Asked to comment on Psaki’s statement, Peskov has reaffirmed Russia’s denial of involvement in any such activities.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries. Arms control advocates have strongly called for New START’s preservation, warning that its lapse would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. In mid-January, Russia declared that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years, a possibility envisaged by the pact, Trump asserted that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing flatly rejected.

Trump’s administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons. Moscow has said it remains open for new nuclear arms talks with the U.S. to negotiate future limits on prospective weapons but emphasized that preserving New START is essential for global stability.

Russian diplomats have said that Russia’s prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019. The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to bypass missile defense systems. It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat.Dailysabahi

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