The Biden administration will seek a full five-year extension of a key nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia, according to a US official.
The New START Treaty expires in just over two weeks on February 5.
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, will meet with President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Thursday to discuss the treaty, according to Russian officials who spoke to CNN as they entered the State Department for meetings with other US officials on Thursday afternoon.
CNN previously reported that Biden advisers indicated that the administration would not seek a shorter extension on the landmark deal. President Joe Biden has expressed support for extending the deal with Russia and using it as a foundation to pursue future arms control arrangements.
Arms control experts had warned that allowing the treaty to lapse could prove catastrophic and on Thursday praised the news, first reported by The Washington Post, that the new administration planned to move forward with a full extension.
Daryl Kimball, the director of the Arms Control Association, called it “the common sense, no nonsense, adult decision.”
“The New START Treaty is essential for US and Russian security, it’s the only treaty left regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals,” he told CNN.
“The Russian arsenal is the single biggest threat to the existence of the United States, so extending this treaty, by the maximum allowed by the treaty, makes sense. It provides the time that will be necessary to negotiate follow-on agreements,’ he explained.
“Those negotiations will be extraordinarily difficult because we have over a decade of accumulated problems that have that have to be resolved in the US-Russian nuclear relationship.”
Kimball noted that Moscow was in favor of an unconditional five-year extension and predicted that, “barring unforeseen complications, completing this agreement is a matter of working through the technicalities within the next two weeks.”
US officials told CNN last month that the full breadth of the US-Russia relationship will be examined by the team. The Biden administration will also prepare a “cost imposition strategy” to respond to Russia — not just for the massive hack of US agencies, but also for Russia’s other disruptive actions — measures that will include sanctions, according to the officials.
With regard to the New START Treaty, Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken said during his confirmation hearing Tuesday that Biden intended to seek an extension of the treaty, but suggested he had not made a decision on the length of that extension.
Blinken noted that Biden “couldn’t really engage” on the issue during the transition because he was “very cognizant of the fact we have one president at a time.”
He told lawmakers that he believes “this is something that we will be coming to you on pretty much immediately as soon as the President is sworn-in, and I know that he does intend to seek an extension, and he’ll have to make a decision as President about what duration he would seek.”
The Trump administration went back and forth with the Russians on the terms of a shorter extension to the longstanding treaty after efforts to create a new trilateral treaty with Russia and China failed.