Russia, US exchange documents to extend nuclear pact

·3 min read

MOSCOW — The Kremlin said Tuesday that Russia and the United States exchanged documents to extend the New START nuclear treaty.

Both sides will now complete the necessary formalities in the coming days, the Kremlin said.

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

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

A senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday that Moscow and Washington were making quick progress to negotiate an extension of their last remaining nuclear arms control treaty.

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed a five-year extension of the New START treaty that is set to expire on Feb. 5, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organizations in Vienna, said that Russia and the U.S. “are making remarkable and speedy progress” on the pact's extension.

“There are reasons to expect that the relevant agreement can become a reality very soon,” he tweeted.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament's upper house, also said Monday that “the treaty must be preserved," adding that "we are now on the verge of that decision to be made and published.”

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 U.S. 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 fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. 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 — 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.

Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press