MOSCOW: On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the extension of a crucial nuclear treaty was a promising step in mitigating global tensions, as senators overwhelmingly agreed to ratify the deal in a remarkable moment of unity between Moscow and Washington to expand the fresh Launch.
It is certainly a step in the right direction,” Putin said at the summit of the World Economic Forum, virtually held this year, addressing the body for the first time since 2009.”
But the Russian leader warned: “If we sit on our hands, the situation can still develop unpredictably and uncontrollably.” Earlier in the day, 399 Russian representatives in the lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, voted in favour of continuing the pact, without votes against or abstentions. Later on Wednesday, the upper house ratified the treaty extension.
Putin introduced a bill extending the deal that was swiftly approved by both houses of parliament after Russia’s leader and new US President Joe Biden made his first phone call Tuesday night.
The new START deal is the only remaining pact between the two enemies of the Cold War to limit arms.
The Kremlin hailed the five-year extension of the pact. This is a reasonable timeline that will allow us to work well to either further prolong it or (agree) a new draught of the agreement, if the political will persists,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This is a good timeframe.
Signed in 2010, the New START reduces the number of nuclear warheads that Moscow and Washington will deploy, which run the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, to 1,550.
The deal, set to expire on 5 February, is seen as a remarkable chance for a reconciliation between Washington and Moscow, whose relations have declined significantly in recent years.
In his phone call with Putin, Biden indicated a stern US position on Russia, voicing questions about human rights and ‘aggression’ towards Ukraine.
The US leader has raised a number of questions about the treatment of opposition members by the Russian authorities, including the “poisoning of Alexei Navalny,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The decision to strengthen the Fresh START deal, however, boosted expectations for greater cooperation between the two most heavily armed nations in the world, drawing a line under the instability of Donald Trump, whom Biden succeeded last week.
The deal was signed by then-US President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, and was seen as a central component of Obama’s attempts to “reset” relations with the Kremlin.
Still, on Wednesday, Peskov reiterated that there were significant gaps between Moscow and Washington, meaning that a new reset was out of the question. “Naturally, there are no conditions for a reset so far,” Peskov said.
“It is sufficient that the Presidents stressed yesterday the need for dialogue to continue, noting the existence of rather serious disagreements,” he said.
Last year’s negotiations on the nuclear weapons reduction deal failed over Trump’s insistence that China would now become a party to the treaty, despite the fact that Beijing made it clear that it would not join. Ahead of the deadline, the Trump administration expressed readiness for a one-year extension, but negotiations broke down over US insistence on harsher verification that Russia has halted its nuclear work.