My name is Kingston Reif and I am the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.
What is New START and why is its extension important?
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which was signed a decade ago this week, limits the size of the still enormous U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear arsenals and provides for an extensive monitoring and verification regime to ensure compliance with the treaty. The use of but a fraction of the still enormous U.S. and Russian arsenals would result in a catastrophe the likes of which humanity has never seen.
New START is excited to expire in less than a year, in February 2021, unless the U.S. and Russian presidents agreed to extend the treaty by up to five years. If New START expires with nothing to replace it, there would be no limits on the size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals for the first time in half a century. The risk of unconstrained nuclear competition and even more fraught bilateral relations would grow. As a global pandemic ravages the nation and the world, we can ill afford to lose the only remaining limits on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, which would open the door to an arms race.
Can we negotiate a "trilateral" agreement with Russia and China as the Trump administration is pursuing?
The administration's pursuit of a more comprehensive arms control agreement that includes additional nuclear-armed states is a worthwhile and praiseworthy objective. However, such an effort would be unprecedented, extremely complex to negotiate, and time-consuming, and almost certainly cannot be achieved before New START expires in less than a year, all of which reinforces the case for extending New START which will buy an additional five years with which to pursue a more ambitious agreement.
What can concerned citizens do to support New START's extension?
The future of New START hangs in the balance it is important that members of Congress hear from their constituents about the importance of extending New START. You can take action by going to our website ArmsControl.org/TakeAction and encourage your member of Congress to support existing bipartisan legislation in the Senate and the House calling on the President to extend New START.
Thanks for your support. Stay healthy and stay safe