Russian Parliament approves expansion of the nuclear treaty with the United States

Moscow (AFP) – The Russian parliament quickly approved an extension of the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty before it expires.

The two chambers voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years. The vote was held the day after the phone call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which they expressed their satisfaction with the exchange of diplomatic notes on the extension of the agreement. The two agreed to complete the necessary procedures in the coming days, according to the Kremlin.

An extension of the agreement does not require congressional approval in the United States, but Russian lawmakers must ratify it and Putin will have to enact it.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters that the extension will be ratified through the exchange of diplomatic notes, once all procedures are completed.

Senate President Valentina Matviyenko said after the vote that the resolution showed that the two countries could reach agreements on important issues despite bilateral tensions.

New START expires on February 5th. After taking office last week, Biden proposed a five-year extension, and the Kremlin quickly accepted the offer.

The treaty, signed by US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, specifies for each country no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and provides for extensive inspections to verify their implementation.

Biden indicated during the campaign that he was in favor of preserving the agreement that was negotiated while he was vice president of the United States.

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Russia had long proposed expanding the agreement without changes or conditions, but the Trump administration waited until last year for talks to begin and made its extension conditional on a series of demands. Talks stalled, and months of negotiations failed to narrow the differences.

The negotiations were also overshadowed by tensions between Russia and the United States, which were fueled by the crisis over Ukraine, Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, and other disagreements.

After Moscow and Washington withdrew in 2019 from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the New START Treaty became the only remaining nuclear weapons control agreement between the two countries.

Russia announced this month that it would do the same as the United States and abandon the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed observation flights over military installations, to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

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