New START Extension Could Avert Nuclear Arms Race, Collapse Of Arms Control System - NGO

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 22nd October, 2020) A potential one-year extension of the New START arms reduction deal between the United States and Russia would be helpful in the evasion of the nuclear arms race and an ultimate collapse of the bilateral arms control system, Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association, told Sputnik on Thursday.

Reports emerged on Tuesday suggesting that Russian and US negotiators appeared to have come to terms over a deal in which both countries freeze the number of nuclear warheads and extend the New START for one year. The US Department of State said that it was prepared to meet immediately to finalize the agreement. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "nothing bad will happen" if the New START gets extended for one year, as it would give the sides extra time to find a compromise.

"At best, a one-year politically binding warhead freeze could be a useful confidence-building measure and a one year New START extension, with the option of additional extension adding up to a total of five years is a step in the right direction, and would help avoid, for now, an unconstrained nuclear arms race," Kimball said.

The expert admitted that such a short-term arrangement was unlikely to have a longstanding impact.

"But it could help avoid the total collapse of the U.S.-Russian arms control system," he said. "It would give Moscow and Washington under a [President Donald] Trump or [candidate Joe] Biden administration more time continue to engage in necessary for further complex and lengthy talks on a new follow-on nuclear agreement to slash their bloated nuclear arsenals."

According to Kimball, the New START's full extension and follow-up arrangements to address unconstrained nuclear warheads would remain critical no matter who the next US president is.

"At this stage, this development strikes me as an act of Trumpian desperation, likely responding to a wish expressed by [Russian Vladimir] Putin. That said, such an extension should gain favor as a means to maintain the status quo until after the election, when the U.S. future will be clear," Dr. Thomas E. Shea, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told Sputnik.

The US presidential election is set to be held on November 3, while the New START the last major arms control deal between the two countries owning the world's two largest nuclear stockpiles expires in February.