Russia, US exchange documents to extend nuclear pact


Moscow: Russia and the United States exchanged documents Tuesday to extend the New START nuclear treaty, their last remaining arms control pact, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin readout of a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin said they voiced satisfaction with the move.

In the nearest days, the parties will complete the necessary procedures that will ensure further functioning of the pact, the Kremlin said.

Lawmakers in the Kremlin-controlled parliament said it would complete the necessary moves to extend the pact this week.

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Last week, Biden proposed a five-year extension of New START, which is set to expire on February 5, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.

The treaty, signed in 2010 by 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 and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Biden indicated during the campaign that he favoured the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as US vice president.

Russia has long proposed to prolong the pact without any conditions or changes, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences.

The negotiations were also marred by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fuelled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and other irritants.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Russia also announced that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years a possibility that was envisaged by the pact at the time it was signed by Trump charged that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing bluntly dismissed. Trump's administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons. (PTI)