Putin hails extension of Russia-US nuclear arms pact as a positive step

Russia's upper and lower houses of parliament voted on Wednesday to ratify the extension of the New START nuclear arms control treaty, following a phone call between President's Putin and Biden the previous day.

MOSCOW/WASHINGTON • Russia and the United States have struck a deal to extend the New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) nuclear arms control treaty, the Kremlin said, a move that preserves the last major pact of its kind between the world's two biggest nuclear powers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that the extension of the pact was a positive development in reducing global tensions, as Russian lawmakers unanimously voted to ratify the agreement, in a rare moment of cooperation between Moscow and Washington.

"No doubt it is a step in the right direction," Mr Putin said at the World Economic Forum summit being held virtually this year, addressing the body for the first time since 2009.

But the Russian leader warned: "The situation can still develop unpredictably and uncontrollably if we sit on our hands."

Earlier yesterday, 399 Russian lawmakers in Parliament's lower house, the State Duma, voted in favour of extending the agreement, with no votes against or abstentions. The upper house ratified the treaty extension later yesterday.

Mr Putin submitted a Bill extending the accord after the Russian leader and new US President Joe Biden held their first phone call on Tuesday evening. The treaty was set to expire on Feb 5.

Signed in 2010, the New Start is a cornerstone of global arms control. It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the US and Russia to 1,550 each, as well as the number of land-and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them.

The Kremlin declared the breakthrough, which was widely anticipated, in a statement announcing that Mr Putin and Mr Biden had spoken for the first time since the US leader took office on Jan 20.

The Kremlin said Mr Putin and Mr Biden "expressed satisfaction" that diplomatic notes between the two nations had been exchanged on Tuesday confirming the pact would be extended and that procedures required for the pact to come into force before it expires would be completed in the coming days.

"They discussed both countries' willingness to extend New Start for five years, agreeing to have their teams work urgently to complete the extension by Feb 5," the White House said.

"They also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues."

The White House said last week that Mr Biden would seek a five-year extension.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2021, with the headline 'Putin hails extension of Russia-US nuclear arms pact as a positive step'. Subscribe