Moscow: Russian lawmakers on Wednesday quickly approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control treaty, a fast-track action that comes just days before it’s due to expire.
One day after US President Joe Biden had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, both houses of Congress voted unanimously to extend the new START treaty for five years. The Kremlin said that they agreed to complete the necessary extension procedures within the next few days.
Putin praised the decision to expand the treaty as a “step in the right direction” in a video link to the virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, but he warned of increased global competition and the threat of new conflicts.
The extension of the agreement does not require the approval of the U.S. Congress, but Russian lawmakers must approve this move, and Putin must sign the relevant bill into law.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (Sergei Ryabkov) told members of Congress that once all procedures are completed, the extension will be confirmed through the exchange of diplomatic notes.
The Speaker of the House of Lords, Valentina Matvienko, said after the vote that the decision to extend the agreement shows that, despite the tensions between Russia and the United States, they can still reach agreements on major issues.
The new armament treaty will expire on February 5. After taking office last week, Biden proposed to extend the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed this proposal.
The treaty, signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. An extensive on-site inspection is planned to verify compliance.
During the campaign, Biden stated that he was in favor of retaining the new “START START” treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as Vice President of the United States.
For a long time, Russia has proposed to extend the agreement unconditionally or unconditionally, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start negotiations and made the extension possible based on a series of requirements. Negotiations were deadlocked, and months of negotiations failed to narrow the differences.
Speaking via video link to the World Economic Forum’s virtual meeting, Putin hailed the decision to extend the treaty as “a step in the right direction,” but warned of rising global rivalries and threats of new conflicts.
The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move and Putin has to sign the relevant bill into law.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers that the extension will be validated by exchanging diplomatic notes once all the procedures are completed.
The upper house speaker, Valentina Matvienko, said after the vote that the decision to extend the pact shows that Russia and the U.S. can reach agreements on major issues despite the tensions between them.
The Trump administration subsequently proposed to extend the “New START” for one year and tried to extend it to include restrictions on battlefield nuclear weapons.
Arms control advocates hailed the treaty’s extension as a boost to global security and urged Russia and the U.S. to start negotiating follow-up agreements.
Ryabkov said that Russia will count its Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty limits.
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 a few existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the Sarmat, a prospective intercontinental ballistic missile now under development.
Ryabkov said that Russia is ready to sit down for talks on prospective arms cuts, noting that they should also involve non-nuclear precision weapons with strategic range.