By Stefan J. Bos
Putin's signature came after both houses of Russia's parliament voted unanimously to extend the so-called New START treaty for five more years. The Russian leader and U.S. President Joe Biden had discussed the nuclear accord a day earlier. Moscow said they agreed to complete the necessary extension procedures in the next few days.
The treaty, signed in 2010 by then U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It also calls for thorough on-site inspections to verify compliance.
The last-minute agreement on extending the treaty came after President Biden indicated that he favored preserving New START during his election campaign. His predecessor Donald Trump argued that the treaty put the U.S. at a disadvantage. Trump even insisted on adding China as a party to the pact, but Beijing rejected the idea.
The Trump administration then proposed extending New START for one year and expanding it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons and other changes. But the talks stalled.
New START was to expire on February 5, raising global concerns about a possible new arms race between the two nuclear superpowers Russia and the United States.
The extension of the New START treaty was welcome news for the NATO military alliance. NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg had expressed worries about the lack of adequate nuclear pacts between Washington and Moscow. He referred to the previous collapse of the other Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or (INF) in 2019. "NATO has been on the forefront of arms control for decades," he said.
"And we have seen the demise of some other treaties, including the INF Treaty. We should avoid and prevent the demise of the New START Treaty," Stoltenberg added.
The New START treaty extension between Russia and the United States doesn't require congressional approval in the U.S. But Russian legislators had to ratify the move, which they did this week.
Russian diplomats explained that the extension would be validated by exchanging diplomatic notes after all procedures are completed.