When he takes office as president on January 20, Biden must make an immediate decision whether to extend the 2010 New START agreement, which would otherwise expire 16 days later, allowing the two countries to deploy an unlimited number of nuclear warheads. and missiles, submarines and aircraft that can launch them.
“While extraordinary measures are needed to combat climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, immediate, intelligent and bold leadership is also needed to reduce the danger of a nuclear catastrophe,” wrote two dozen control groups. weapons, ecological and otherwise, in a letter on November 19 to Biden’s transition team, seen by Reuters.
Many experts fear that the disappearance of the New START could fuel a nuclear arms race and could escalate tensions between the United States and Russia, which are already at their highest level since the end of the Cold War in 1991, fueled by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. , alleged interference – which Moscow denies – in the 2016 US elections and arms control disputes.
The expiration of the treaty will also stop on-site inspections by the world’s two major nuclear powers. This would disrupt a critical source of information used to detect fraud and obtain information about the other state’s arsenals.
The Biden transition team declined to respond to a request for comment on the letter, the signatories of which include the Arms Control Association, Sierra Club, Council for a Livable World and United Methodist Church.
New START, which came into force in 2011, can be extended by mutual agreement for up to five years.
Organizations that support gun control have called on Biden to quickly accept an unconditional five-year extension of the agreement.
Biden claims an extension of the agreement “as a basis for new arms control arrangements,” but did not say until when.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to his transition team said no decision had been made on the length of his request.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long called for an unconditional five-year extension of the agreement.