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The New START treaty - the last remaining nuclear arms limitation agreement between Russia and the United States - is set to expire on Feb. 5, 2021. That is sixteen days after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. This agreement and its detailed provisions for on-site inspections, important for U.S. national security, can be extended for up to five more years, but only if the new president acts quickly.

This treaty, approved by the Senate in 2010 on a bipartisan basis, can be extended by the Russian and U.S. governments for up to five more years, and the president can do so without Senate approval. Unless New START is extended, negotiating a replacement treaty could take years with no certainty of success.

It’s rare that something so beneficial can be done so easily.

New START protects the United States and prevents an arms race, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Under the treaty, each country is limited to 1,550 nuclear warheads and is permitted to inspect the other’s nuclear forces. The treaty’s comprehensive verification mechanisms build confidence between the countries and reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation regarding the size and deployment of each other’s nuclear arsenals—a crucial factor in preventing nuclear weapons escalation or use.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn say “extension of New START is a crucial and responsible step.” However, by calling for China to be included in the treaty, the Trump administration has thrown a wrench into what should be a simple, straightforward, and mutually beneficial extension of New START.

China has significantly fewer nuclear weapons than Russia or the United States, and while China should be included in future nuclear reduction talks, that can only happen if nuclear reduction treaties remain in force between Russia and the United States. Unless the current administration can succeed in negotiating an extension, it will be up to the president-elect and his team to sign an extension of this important treaty in its first two weeks in office.

It’s rare that something so beneficial can be done so easily. The Biden administration must extend the New START treaty for the full five years without further conditions before Feb. 5, 2021. Tell your members of Congress to express support for such an extension.

Michelle Fujii

Michelle Fujii

Program Assistant, Nuclear Disarmament & Pentagon Spending

Michelle is the program assistant for nuclear disarmament and Pentagon spending. She works with grassroots activists, coalition partners, and members of Congress to advocate for cuts in Pentagon spending and make nuclear disarmament a legislative priority.