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Joe Biden offers Vladimir Putin a five-year extension on last-remaining nuclear weapons treaty

The Biden administration is proposing to Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty limiting the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The proposal was being communicated to Russian officials, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter not yet publicly announced by the administration. 

The treaty is set to expire Feb. 5 and is the last remaining agreement constraining U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. 

Signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It permits sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. 

Diplomatic move: Biden is offering a five-year extension to the only remaining nuclear arms control treaty. He and Jill Biden, along with Kamala Harris and members of the Biden family, took part in a virtual prayer service from National Cathedral Thursday

Biden´s national security adviser Jake Sullivan planned to convey the extension proposal to Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, on Thursday afternoon, the official said.

A second U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the proposal but offered no details.

The proposal was reported first by The Washington Post. 

President Donald Trump had been highly critical of the deal, asserting that it put the United States at a disadvantage. 

His administration waited until last year to engage Russia in substantive talks on the treaty's future. Trump insisted that China be added to the treaty, but Beijing rejected the idea out of hand.

Biden, who indicated during the campaign that he favored extending New START, is not proposing any alterations, the U.S. official said. Thus it appeared likely that Moscow would be amenable to an extension.

Cold war legacy: The New START treaty is the final control on the vast nuclear arsenals first built by the United States and the then Soviet Union and now inherited by Russia

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had called Thursday on the United States and Russia to extend the New START and to later broaden the pact to include more weapons and China.

'We should not end up in a situation with no limitation on nuclear warheads, and New START will expire within days,' Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signaled on Monday that Moscow is ready to move quickly to keep the pact alive.

But Stoltenberg also underlined that 'an extension of the New START is not the end, it's the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control.'

'We need to look at ways to include more weapons systems, systems not covered by the New START, but also to include China because China is now heavily modernizing their nuclear weapons, and not only modernizing but expanding their nuclear capabilities,' he said.

Arms control advocates warn that the treaty´s expiry would remove checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, striking a blow to global stability. Canada and European allies in NATO are also concerned about the slow demise of non-proliferation agreements.

In 2019, the U.S. and Russia both withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed in 1987 and banned land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 310 to 3,410 miles.

Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the U.S. lead and pull out of the Open Skies Treaty that allows surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West. 

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