BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO EXTEND NEW START TREATY
In the first few weeks of 2021, there have been two new and significant developments in bilateral and multilateral nuclear policy.
The first global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), took effect on January 22nd, 2021. And on January 26th the United States and Russian agreed to extend the bilateral cap on U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five additional years.
- The extension of New START is welcomed as it prevents backsliding on nuclear disarmament. It’s a welcome start to the new U.S. administration, but additional steps will now be needed to make progress on disarmament.
- Since the United States and Russia first agreed to this current cap on nuclear arsenals in 2010, the international community has negotiated, adopted, and brought into force a treaty banning nuclear weapons: nuclear weapons are illegal under international law.
- Throughout the time the New START agreement has been in place, Russia and the United States have spent billions each year to build new nuclear weapons systems. This is now banned under international law.
- With the New START quickly extended and the TPNW in force, the groundwork has been paved for significant disarmament advances in the coming four years, the nine nuclear armed states have no excuses not to walk that path.
- Simply staying at the current nuclear weapon levels will not be enough to protect the world from this catastrophic threat. With the TPNW in force, there is a new international standard. Russia, the United States and all nuclear-armed nations must take active steps to move towards compliance with this international treaty and join it.
Extending New START is an important action by these two countries, especially after four years of the Trump administration withdrawing and undermining arms control agreements. However, it's important to remember that it is not a disarmament step - it's simply an extension of the current levels of nuclear arsenals.
The U.S and Russia share a responsibility and national interests in reducing their costly, and deadly nuclear stockpiles, which are by far the largest among the world's nine nuclear-armed countries. This is an important step, but we must view it as just one step in the larger picture of total nuclear disarmament. There is still much work to be done.