With the collapse of the INF Treaty earlier this year, only one restraint remains on U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals: the New START agreement. Set to expire in February 2021, the treaty can be extended by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the stroke of a pen — but neither the United States or Russia seem willing to prioritize it
If Trump or Putin decides to let New START expire — or worse, pulls out of the treaty early — it could accelerate a disastrous nuclear arms race while robbing both the United States and Russia of inspection and verification tools that provide critical insight into the capabilities and intentions of both countries.
Bottom line: New START is working. The steady drawdown of Cold War stockpiles is vital to the national security interests of the United States, Russia and the world, and we’re all safer today because of it. That’s why the treaty enjoys overwhelming political and military support — including from the head and former head of U.S. Strategic Command.
Ambassador Richard Burt, U.S. Chief Negotiator of Strategic Arms Reduction Talks and Global Zero U.S. Chair
The INF failure and the failure to get into real discussions about extending New START is a sign of the U.S. sleepwalking into a new nuclear arms race.
There are still too many nuclear weapons in the world, but New START took the United States and Russia an important step in the right direction. Extending New START would reinforce the last remaining barrier to a full-blown nuclear arms race, stabilize a dangerous and deteriorating situation between the two biggest nuclear hoarders on the planet, and set the stage for future talks to curb this catastrophic weaponry — possibly even drawing other nuclear-armed nations into the process for the first time in history.
Resources to check out
New START explainer, Global Zero
U.S-Russia Nuclear Arms Control Tracker, Global Zero
Thomas Countryman on the Collapse of the INF Treaty, YouTube
A US-Russia-China Arms Treaty? Extend New START First, Jon Wolfsthal in DefenseOne
How Trump Can Transform Nuclear Arms Control, Amb. Richard Burt and Jon Wolfsthal in The National Interest