On Wednesday, 03 February 2021, the United States extended the validity of the New Start Treaty on the Limitation of Nuclear Weapons concluded with Russia for five years. The last major agreement between the two countries was due to expire on Friday.
The New Start Treaty on the Limitation of Nuclear Weapons has been extended for five years by the United States and Russia. “The extension of the New START Treaty ensures that we have verifiable limits on ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), SLBM (Strategic Sea-Ground Ballistic Missiles) and Russian heavy bombers until February 5, 2026.”, said State Secretary Antony Blinken in a public statement. “Extending the new Start Treaty makes the United States, its allies and the world safer. Unconstrained nuclear competition would put us all at risk,” he added.
This treaty, which came into force in 2011, capped the arsenal of the two major powers at 700 intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missiles aboard submarines and heavy bombers, at 1,550 nuclear warheads and launchers at 800 each. This represents a reduction of 30% from the previous ceiling set in 2002 and 90% from the peak observed at the height of the Cold War.
However, the agreement does not limit the number of inactive nuclear warheads stored and the so-called tactical nuclear weapons (Washington has a total of 5,800 and Moscow 6,375). The latter, aimed at the destruction of key infrastructures, have a relatively limited power of a few kilotons, often against several megatons for strategic deterrence weapons.
This extension, without any modifications or additions, had been settled by a telephone interview, on 26 January 2021, between the new President of the United States, Joe Biden, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. This is contrary to the Trump administration’s position that this agreement does not guarantee the security interests of the United States, if China is not included.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, last week promulgated a law extending the validity of the same treaty by five years. He said the text would take effect as soon as the two countries had finalized the necessary diplomatic and legislative procedures.
Although the Trump administration has already tried to link China to the new Start Treaty, without success, Biden still intends to negotiate a nuclear arms control treaty with Beijing.