Biden seeks extension of nuclear arms pact with Russia

Washington, Jan 21 (efe-epa).- US President Joe Biden will ask Russia to agree to extend until 2026 the soon-to-expire New START treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the two nations that together account for 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the White House said Thursday.

“I can confirm that the United States intends to seek a five-year extension of New START as the treaty permits,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House when asked about a story in The Washington Post on the administration’s plans.

“The president has long been clear that the New START treaty is in the national security interest of the United States and this extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial, as it is at this time,” she said.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew from two arms control pacts with Russia and rejected Moscow’s repeated offers to extend New START.

Under the circumstances, New START constitutes “an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries,” Psaki said, adding that Biden remained determined to hold Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions.”

The new president has asked his intelligence chiefs to investigate of alleged Russian misdeeds, such as the “Solar Winds” computer hack, alleged interference in the US 2020 election and claims that Moscow offered rewards for killings of American troops in Afghanistan.

Signed in 2010, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, is set to expire on Feb. 5.

The original agreement contemplated the five-year extension that Washington is now proposing.

Hours after Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, Russia said it was hopeful the new administration would “take a more constructive stand in its dialogue with Russia” about New START.

“For our part, we are ready for such work on the basis of equality and respect for each other’s interests,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The Trump administration spent months last year demanding the inclusion of China in an expanded New START, while Beijing flatly refused to join the process, pointing out that its nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of the US and Russian stockpiles.

Moscow, for its part, responded to the US insistence on bringing China into the talks by calling for the inclusion of France and the United Kingdom, the other two declared nuclear powers that are permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Last October, a Trump administration official said that Moscow had agreed in principle to a US proposal to amend the treaty, but Vladimir Putin’s government said it would not agree to anything ahead of the US presidential election on Nov. 3, offering instead to extend the existing text for 12 months.

Under New START, the US and Russia are each limited to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads.

If the treaty were allowed to expire, the world would be without an arms control accord between the two largest nuclear powers since 1972. EFE bpm/dr

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