A five-year extension of a nuclear weapons treaty that expires early next month with Russia has been proposed by the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, reports said Friday, citing officials from the White House.
The Biden administration has also proposed that Washington and Moscow explore new "verifiable arms control agreements" in the future ahead of the Feb. 5 expiry of the pact. The initiative could be a bright spot in an otherwise sour relationship in the first days of the new presidency.
The 2010 treaty, signed by then President Barack Obama and Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev, is the final impediment on the inventory of the world's two nuclear superpowers, reducing the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, submarines and rockets which can transport them.
Securing a revival of the nuclear arms treaty is among the most urgent national security challenges that the new administration is facing. Former U.S. President Donald Trump had opposed the agreement, contending that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage.
"An extension of the New Start Treaty is not the end but the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
"The president has long been clear that the New Start Treaty is in the national security interests of the U.S.," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The treaty, which allows regular site inspections of the other country's nuclear stockpile, is viewed by many as an insurance policy against a full-blown arms race.
It's the only nuclear arms regulation pact between the U.S. and Russia still standing after the two sides backed out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2020.