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July 22, 2020
APS Board Supports Extension of the New START Treaty
The Board of the American Physical Society calls on the United States and the Russian Federation to sign a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Without this extension, the treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, leaving the United States and Russia without any nuclear arms limitations treaty or agreement in place for the first time in nearly fifty years1.
New START2, signed in 2010, serves to reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads and their delivery systems to levels well below previous arms control agreements3. The Treaty limits US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads on 700 deployed strategic delivery systems and establishes a verification regime. The US military and intelligence communities have publicly stated these weapons limits and verification provisions are of great value because they provide predictability and transparency with regard to Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal. The US State Department’s April 2020 report on arms control compliance concludes that Russia remains in compliance with this Treaty4.
The Treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, unless the United States and the Russian Federation agree to extend it. Article XIV of the Treaty stipulates that the US and Russian presidents can agree to extend the treaty by a period of up to five years without further approval from the US Senate. The Russian government has already stated that it is ready to sign a five-year extension of New START without preconditions5. The United States should do the same.
Concerns about New START extension revolve mainly around Russian strategic delivery systems under development, and a desire to bring China into future arms control agreements6. Multilateral agreements between the United States, Russia, and China are worthy goals, but enhanced arms control regimes of the future do not require sacrificing an effective arms control treaty today.
A decision by the presidents of the United States and Russia to extend New START would provide additional time and a stable foundation for further potential negotiations with Russia and potentially with China on new and more ambitious arms control arrangements. It also would contribute to the fulfillment of their disarmament obligations and commitments under Article VI of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
1 “Urgent Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race and Dangerous Miscalculation: statement of the Deep Cuts Commission” Brussels, 18-19 March 2018.
4 U.S. Dept. of State, “2020 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmement Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report), April 2020.
5 “Putin says Russia ready to extend New START nuclear arms treaty.” December 5, 2019.