Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Feb. 3 that the United States has extended the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty with Russia for five years.
The New START treaty, which came into force in 2011, limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads held by each nation to 1,550 and the number of deployed nuclear missiles and bombers to 700. The treaty also includes a verification regime that allows both nations to ensure mutual compliance through onsite inspections.
“Especially during times of tension, verifiable limits on Russia’s intercontinental-range nuclear weapons are vitally important. 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,” Blinken said in a statement.
The Trump administration was working to extend the treaty and attempted to bring China, which isn’t constrained by any nuclear treaty, into the fold. Blinken said efforts to have China join a treaty would continue. He noted that the Biden administration would also pursue a broader nuclear arms control pact with Russia.
“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.
Since signing the treaty, Russia has announced the development and deployment of several missiles that pose serious challenges to U.S. missile defenses, including a nuclear missile with a virtually unlimited range, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, and the Avangard glide vehicle.
The United States and Russia withdrew from two major treaties during the Trump administration. Washington initiated the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty after accusing Russia of violating the accord. Both nations eventually ended their obligations under the pact. Earlier this month, Russia announced that it would follow the United States to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities.
Blinken said that even as the United States extends the New START treaty, it would remain “clear-eyed” to Russia’s alleged human rights abuses and “adversarial actions.” The Biden administration is considering its options to respond to Russia’s alleged SolarWinds hack, alleged election interference, and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.