US, Russia Easily Agree to Extend Nuclear Weapons Treaty

Written by SK Ashby

President Biden held his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday and Biden was frank about Russian aggression and Putin's behavior, at least according to the White House version of the call, but the phone call was also productive.

With only a week remaining before the treaty expires, both sides agreed to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for another five years; the maximum extension allowed by current law.

From the New York Times:

The treaty limits nuclear arsenals to 1,550 strategic warheads. The five-year extension was built into the original text, if both countries agreed, so it does not need further approval by the Senate. But Mr. Putin will need to ratify the extension through the Duma, which he controls; it initially approved the treaty itself 10 years ago this week.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden “voiced their satisfaction” about diplomatic steps taken earlier in the day to exercise the extension, the Kremlin said.

You may recall that Trump refused to extend the treaty unless China became a signatory, but that was never about Chinese military superiority (which they don't have) and it does not appear that Trump was acting in Russia's interest even if he thought he was. Extending the treaty with a single phone call suggests that Putin did not consider it something worth arguing about.

Trump sought to expand rather than reduce our nuclear arsenal and extending the treaty wasn't in his own personal interests and personal fantasies. He also clearly viewed the treaty's renewal as another opportunity to make China a campaign boogeyman with no regard for the collateral damage.

Considering the origins of the START treaty, which was first signed by President George HW. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, it struck me that there's no Republican lawmaker alive today who could negotiate a treaty of much significant, let alone something like this. In the post-Trump era, the entire Republican bench of up-and-coming stars is a rogue's gallery of proudly stupid, belligerent nincompoops. Even their more presentable stars are utterly incapable of meeting any moment with truth and accuracy. They don't even know what truth is.

During their phone call, the White House says Biden also raised the issue of Russia's mistreatment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and their cyberespionage campaign that originated at SolarWinds.

I expect the Biden administration will take significant actions in response to Russia's machinations over the last five years, but not until later this year after his national security team have had time to fully assess everything we know.