The US announced on Wednesday the five-year extension of New START, the last nuclear arms control treaty between Washington and Moscow. The treaty limits the number of missiles, bombers, and nuclear warheads each power can have deployed.
“Extending the New START Treaty ensures we have verifiable limits on Russian ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), and heavy bombers until February 5, 2026,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Blinken’s announcement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law extending the treaty. Both chambers of Russia’s parliament voted unanimously to extend New START. Extending the treaty does not require congressional approval in the US.
Building on the agreement to extend New START, Russia is hoping to preserve the Open Skies treaty, a trust-building pact that allows unarmed surveillance flights over participating countries. The Trump Administration withdrew from Open Skies last year, and Moscow announced last month that it was doing the same, although they are hoping the new US administration is willing to salvage the treaty.
While the extension of New START is a diplomatic success, Blinken made it clear in his statement that the Biden administration will maintain a hostile stance towards Russia. “Even as we work with Russia to advance US interests, so too will we work to hold Russia to account for adversarial actions,” he said.
Blinken also mentioned China in his statement. “We will also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal,” he said.
Part of the Trump administration’s failure to reach an agreement on New START was the insistence on including China in the deal. But as it stands, China has no interest in trilateral arms control since Beijing’s nuclear arsenal is vastly smaller than the US and Russia’s.
Current estimates put China’s nuclear stockpile at about 320 warheads, while the US and Russia both have around 6,000. If the Biden Administration is serious about arms control with Beijing, the US will need to eliminate a good amount of its arsenal.