BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Thursday on the United States and Russia to extend a major nuclear arms agreement before it expires in less than two weeks, and to later broaden the pact to include more weapons and China.
The New START treaty, signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, expires on Feb. 5. It limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It permits sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
“We should not end up in a situation with no limitation on nuclear warheads, and New START will expire within days,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signaled on Monday that Moscow is ready to move quickly to keep the pact alive, and U.S. President Joe Biden, who was Vice President when it was signed, has also spoken in favor of preserving it.
But Stoltenberg also underlined that “an extension of the New START is not the end, it’s the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control.”
“We need to look at ways to include more weapons systems, systems not covered by the New START, but also to include China because China is now heavily modernizing their nuclear weapons, and not only modernizing but expanding their nuclear capabilities,” he said.
Arms control advocates warn that the treaty’s expiry would remove checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, striking a blow to global stability. Canada and European allies in NATO are also concerned about the slow demise of non-proliferation agreements.
In 2019, the U.S. and Russia both withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed in 1987 and banned land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).
Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the U.S. lead and pull out of the Open Skies Treaty that allows surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.