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Russian Parliament OKs Extension of the Fresh Launch Nuclear Treaty

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On Wednesday, Russian lawmakers immediately approved extending the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. A fast-track action that arrives just days before it’s due to expire, the weapons limitation deal.

The two houses of parliament overwhelmingly voted to prolong the Fresh START Treaty for five years, one day after a U.S. conference call. President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. In the next few days, the Kremlin said it had decided to complete the requisite extension procedures.

Putin, speaking via video link to the virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, welcomed the decision to expand the treaty as “a step in the right direction,” but warned against increasing global rivalries and the possibility of new wars.

The extension of the deal would not require Legislative support in the U.S., but the change must be approved by Russian lawmakers and Putin has to sign into law the related measure.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers that after all the procedures are finalized, the extension would be confirmed by exchanging diplomatic notes.

After the vote, the upper house speaker, Valentina Matvienko, said that the decision to prolong the deal indicates that, amid the tensions between them, Russia and the U.S. will find compromises on major issues.

On Feb. 5, the fresh START expires. Biden suggested extending the treaty for five years after entering office last week, and the Kremlin immediately accepted the proposition.

The pact, signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, restricts each nation to no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads deployed and 700 missiles and bombers deployed, and allows for sweeping on-site checks to verify compliance.

During the referendum, Biden suggested that he supported maintaining the New START treaty, which was signed as U.S. vice president during his term.

Without any conditions or improvements, Russia has long suggested extending the agreement, but the Trump administration waited until last year to launch negotiations and made the extension contingent on a number of demands. The talks have stalled, and months of discussions have failed to close the gap.

Tensions between Russia and the United States, fuelled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and other irritants, have also marred the talks.

New START is the last remaining nuclear weapons control agreement between the two nations, since both Moscow and Washington withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Powers Convention in 2019.

Russia stated earlier this month that it would join the U.S. in pulling out of the Open Skies Treaties to help create trust and openness between Russia and the West, which permitted surveillance flights over military installations.

Russia had already offered to continue the Fresh START for five years before the Biden administration entered power, a prospect envisaged by the agreement at the time it was signed. Yet President Donald Trump accused him of putting the United States at a disadvantage. Initially, Trump insisted on China being attached to the treaty, a proposal that was bluntly denied by Beijing.

The Trump administration then recommended the New START be extended for just one year and then tried to widen it to include frontline nuclear weapons restrictions.

Defenders of arms control praised the continuation of the pact as a boost to global stability and encouraged Russia and the United States to continue negotiating follow-up arrangements.

Russia will count its Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty borders, Ryabkov said.

The Russian military has said that the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and is capable of performing sharp manoeuvres to circumvent missile defence systems on its way to a target. Instead of older style warheads, it has been fitted to a few existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles, and could be fitted to the Sarmat in the future, a prospective intercontinental ballistic missile currently under construction.

Russia is willing to sit down for negotiations on future arms cuts, Ryabkov said, adding that non-nuclear precision missiles with a strategic range should also be included.

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