U.S. approves five-year extension of nuclear weapon treaty with Russia

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The State Department on Wednesday announced a five-year extension of the New START ballistic missile treaty, cementing limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapon delivery mechanisms through 2026.

The treaty, which had been set to expire later this week, secures limits on both land and submarine-based ballistic missiles as well as heavy bombers. It allows for monitoring of Russian compliance while providing “greater insight into Russia’s nuclear posture, including through data exchanges and onsite inspections that allow U.S. inspectors to have eyes on Russian nuclear forces and facilities,” according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The secretary, installed last week as the nation’s top diplomat, said the New START extension presaged further efforts on nuclear proliferation. The U.S., Blinken said, will “also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal.”

The State Department announcement comes one week after the Russian parliament voted unanimously to extend the treaty, which was first signed by President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. The treaty ensures that the U.S. and Russia cannot deploy more than 1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 missiles and bombers and also allows for regular site inspections.

The Trump administration delayed discussing the treaty until last year and added a set of demands in order for the extension to be accepted, and the bargaining went on for months. Russia was in favor of the extension without any changes.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last month that the extension “makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is as adversarial as it is at this time.” Psaki stressed that the “New START is the only remaining treaty constraining Russian nuclear forces and is an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries.”

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